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Dr Lee made serious allegation about my conduct as journalist: Janadas Devan

SINGAPORE — The trigger for an online exchange between Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Janadas Devan was a “serious allegation” she made about his conduct while he was an editor with The Straits Times (ST), Mr Devan said on Monday (April 4).

Dr Lee made serious allegation about  my conduct as journalist: Janadas Devan

Mr Janadas Devan. TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE — The trigger for an online exchange between Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Janadas Devan was a “serious allegation” she made about his conduct while he was an editor with The Straits Times (ST), Mr Devan said on Monday (April 4).

Responding to TODAY’s queries via text messages, the 61-year-old senior government official, who is currently travelling, stressed that he posted responses to Dr Lee’s comments in his private capacity. What was said by Dr Lee — who is the daughter of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew — amounted to “a serious allegation about my conduct in my previous occupation”.

Mr Devan worked for ST before he was appointed Chief of Government Communications in 2012. The exchange between Dr Lee and Mr Devan was a major talking point on social media in recent days, which began with Dr Lee’s Facebook post on March 25 stating that her father would have cringed at the hero worship just one year after his death.

Subsequently, Dr Lee, 61, who was a contributor to ST, said she put up the article on Facebook because “the editors there do not allow me freedom of speech” and she also announced that she would stop writing for the newspaper.

Mr Devan, who is the son of former President Devan Nair, told TODAY: “Dr Lee alleged that she had three editors (over the years) and all three editors acted improperly with regard to her articles. I was one of the editors, as many people know.”

He added: “Not to have replied to deny such insinuations means I accept them… Dr Lee must know you can’t make such allegations about people and expect them to keep quiet.”

Over the weekend, Dr Lee put up several Facebook posts on the matter. On Saturday, she alleged that Mr Devan had portrayed former Singapore Press Holdings’ English and Malay Newspapers Division Editor-in-Chief Cheong Yip Seng as “sly”, for asking the late Mr Lee to write a blurb in his book, OB Markers, and criticising him in the same book. Among other things, she also wrote that a People’s Action Party cadre told her that her brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, “had called up Cheong to scold him”.

 

On Sunday, Dr Lee wrote about the “love-hate relationship” between her and the editors. She also said that Mr Devan had texted her from Texas, United States, to say that he “never called Cheong sly”. Dr Lee said she could not recall Mr Devan’s exact words during the conversation in 2013. “But he expressed his displeasure with Cheong with great emotion and this was directed to the fact that Cheong made use of my father. ‘Sly’ seemed appropriate word to convey what he said to me,” she said. 

 

At around midnight on Monday, Mr Devan left a comment on Dr Lee’s Facebook to clarify, among other things, that the Prime Minister did not call Mr Cheong, “much less ‘scold him’”. He also said that Dr Lee’s descriptions of the incident involving Mr Cheong were inaccurate and were her “characterisations of what happened”.

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On Monday afternoon, Mr Devan left another comment.

“Much as I dislike publicly contradicting a friend, there is no alternative,” he said. “We are expected to believe she suffered so much oppression,  writing for ST, that she willingly persisted with the experience over almost ten miserable years… How credible can that be?”

Reading Dr Lee’s unedited stories was “like sailing through a fog” but Mr Devan denied censoring her articles. “Of course, like with any writer, she was fact-checked to make sure she did not inadvertently make inaccurate or misleading statements. That’s not ‘censorship’; that’s called editing.”

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In response, Dr Lee said she could not remember his precise words over the Cheong incident but she “clearly remembered” his emotion. Giving her account of what she was told by Mr Cheong and the PAP cadre — whom she could not name “in case punitive action is taken against him” — she also asked Mr Devan to “read carefully before you make a fuss”.

 

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