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Blogger must make offer of damages or face suit: PM’s lawyer

SINGAPORE — Blogger Roy Ngerng Yi Ling’s request to have damages being sought against him for a defamatory article on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong dropped has been turned down.

Blogger Roy Ngerng holding his NMP application outside Parliament House. Photo: Roy Ngerng's Facebook page.

Blogger Roy Ngerng holding his NMP application outside Parliament House. Photo: Roy Ngerng's Facebook page.

SINGAPORE — Blogger Roy Ngerng Yi Ling’s request to have damages being sought against him for a defamatory article on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong dropped has been turned down.

The 33-year-old healthcare worker will have to make an offer by Monday or face legal proceedings, said Mr Lee’s lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, in a letter to Mr Ngerng yesterday.

Mr Singh had sent a letter of demand to the blogger last Sunday after the latter posted an article on May 15, titled Where Your CPF Money Is Going: Learning From The City Harvest Trial, alleging that Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies had been misappropriated.

He threatened to sue if Mr Ngerng did not publish an apology for this “false and baseless” allegation and undertake not to make further similar allegations.

Mr Ngerng was also to make an offer of damages, as well as for costs and expenses that Mr Lee incurs relating to this matter.

Yesterday, Mr Ngerng complied with the demand to post an apology on his blog.

In a letter to Mr Singh’s firm Drew & Napier, Mr Ngerng’s lawyer M Ravi said his client “unreservedly apologises to Mr Lee Hsien Loong for the distress and embarrassment caused to him by our client’s allegation”.

“He admits and acknowledges that this allegation is false and completely without foundation,” he added.

But he asked Mr Lee to consider dropping the demand for damages so that Mr Ngerng would not be reduced to a “most assuredly disadvantageous position”.

“Our client is a civic-minded individual who earns his modest living as a healthcare worker. As such, our client’s life situation is not one that lends itself readily to disposing of great finances in payment of damages,” Mr Ravi added.

In response, Mr Singh said the article had made “a very grave and highly malicious allegation”.

“In the circumstances, our client is fully entitled to damages,” he added.

Adding that the deadline for Mr Ngerng will be extended to 5pm on Monday, Mr Singh said: “The damages that are offered should reflect, among other things, the gravity of the false and malicious charge, the fact that your client knows and accepts that it is completely without foundation, its widespread circulation and the standing of our client.”

On the matter of costs, Mr Ravi contended that Mr Lee was prohibited from making such demands at this stage of the legal process.

This was refuted by Mr Singh, who said Mr Lee was “entitled in law” to do so.

Mr Ngerng also asked to have an open dialogue with Mr Lee on the issue of CPF “to illustrate clearly how the CPF is being used in the public’s interest”.

Through this, transactions involving the CPF will be “transparent to ordinary Singaporeans”, he added.

Mr Singh did not address this directly in his letter, but said Mr Lee reserves the right to “deal with the other matters in your letter at the appropriate time”.

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