PM's lawyers seek 'strong damages' against Roy Ngerng
SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s lawyer made the case for substantial damages to be awarded yesterday, asking the court to express “in the strongest terms” its indignation at blogger Roy Ngerng’s conduct in defaming their client.
SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s lawyer made the case for substantial damages to be awarded today (July 1), asking the court to express “in the strongest terms” its indignation at blogger Roy Ngerng’s conduct in defaming their client.
The case stands out for the “depth and intensity” of Mr Ngerng’s malice towards Mr Lee and his resolve to damage Mr Lee’s reputation,
said Mr Davinder Singh in his opening statement tendered to court today at the start of a three-day hearing on how much the blogger has to pay in damages. “The case for a very high award of damages, including aggravated damages, is compelling.”
A High Court ruled in November last year that Mr Ngerng had defamed Mr Lee in a May 2014 blog posting alleging misappropriation of money paid by Singaporeans to the Central Provident Fund. Today, citing a previous defamation case where the Singapore Democratic Party was ordered to pay Mr Lee Kuan Yew S$280,000 in general and aggravated damages — he was then Minister Mentor in the Prime Minister’s Office and also the chairman of the GIC — Mr Singh said: “In this instance, the Plaintiff was defamed in his capacity as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore and the Chairman of GIC, and this should therefore warrant a higher award of damages.
“The maintenance of the standing of the Plaintiff as the Prime Minister of Singapore and as Chairman of GIC is critical, and the public perception of his integrity will affect his effectiveness to govern and oversee GIC.”
Mr Singh also said: “From the very first, the Defendant set out to wound. He knowingly and maliciously published a false and vicious libel towards the Plaintiff to inflict maximum injury. He then cynically capitalised on, and continues to exploit, that libel and the ensuing lawsuit to promote himself as a champion of free speech.”
For instance, the 34-year-old blogger would have pulled the offending article from his blog if he was contrite,
he said. Instead, he posted the letter of demand sent to him on his blog to draw more attention to the article, and wrote an accompanying article to “style himself as a martyr”.
In his affidavit to the court,
Mr Lee said Mr Ngerng made a “very serious and grave allegation”, which has “caused me distress and embarrassment”. He added that Mr Ngerng has “opportunistically used the libel in a calculated and cynical manner” to promote himself and cause further distress and injury to him.
But Mr Ngerng is seeking the court to either award no damages, or award minimal or nominal general damages and/or not award any aggravated damages. In his court statement, Mr Ngerng, who paid S$29,000 in total costs to Mr Lee for the legal proceedings up to the summary judgment issued against him, said his case can be analysed in two other ways beyond the legal or technical factors affecting the assessment of damages he has to pay.
The first relates to “the consequences of damages to free speech and democracy”, he said. The second is at the “socio-legal level”, where “we consider whether Singapore should move towards a more graceful society when its citizens share the same concerns with the Government in the welfare of Singaporeans and betterment of Singapore”.
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