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Theatre group CEO sues building manager over bullying and vandalism allegations, seeks S$230,000 in damages

SINGAPORE — The chief executive officer of a Chinese drama charity organisation here, Arts Theatre of Singapore, has filed a defamation lawsuit against its building management over a letter sent last year to various government agencies.

Theatre group CEO sues building manager over bullying and vandalism allegations, seeks S$230,000 in damages
  • Mr Koh Chong Chiah has sued his building’s management corporation for sending a letter last year
  • The letter claimed that Mr Koh “bullied and threatened” those in Oxley Bizhub, among other allegations
  • It also stated that he used his Public Service Medal award to put pressure on various government agencies

SINGAPORE — The chief executive officer of a Chinese drama charity organisation here, Arts Theatre of Singapore, has filed a defamation lawsuit against its building management over a letter sent last year to various government agencies.

Mr Koh Chong Chiah, a former senior banker, is seeking S$150,000 in damages, along with aggravated damages of S$80,000 and an injunction requiring Oxley Bizhub's management corporation (MCST) to stop publishing or repeating the allegedly libellous statements.

Arts Theatre of Singapore occupies a unit in the Oxley Bizhub industrial building, located along Ubi Road, which has more than 700 units in total.

In his statement of claim filed earlier this month, and seen by TODAY, Mr Koh claimed that the letter — dated June 1 last year and sent by Oxley Bizhub’s MCST — contained five defamatory statements that caused him intense alarm, distress and hurt.

These statements included an allegation that Mr Koh organised a group called the “Oxley Task Force”, which "harassed the ruling councils by going around various agencies to lodge numerous complaints”, and that he was “using his PBM title” to put pressure on these agencies.

PBM refers to the Public Service Medal, which Mr Koh received in 2000 for his service to the arts community in Singapore. Apart from his involvement in promoting Chinese culture here, he was a senior vice-president in Citibank Singapore before retiring in 2010.

The letter also stated that people in Oxley Bizhub had been “bullied and threatened” by Mr Koh after he apparently lost MCST council elections.

The letter also alleged that he and his team “spread rumours” and “started to vandalise public toilets, elevators and pump room” to give an impression that the management could not upkeep “the good environment in Oxley Bizhub”.

The letter was addressed to the Strata Title Board, national water agency PUB, Singapore Police Force, the Prime Minister’s Office, Urban Redevelopment Authority and several other public service agencies.

Ten days later, the MCST emailed the letter to Oxley Bizhub’s owners and occupiers, along with a publicly accessible online link to a petition to garner support for the letter.

In his statement of claim, Mr Koh said that the allegations in the letter were untrue and contained a negative connotation that he had used his title to frighten, threaten and place pressure in an illegitimate way to make the MCST act according to his wishes.

He also noted that the letter directly referenced him as “PBM Koh Chong Chiah” several times, and argued that the management intended to disseminate and share the allegedly defamatory statements as widely as possible.

As for his claim for aggravated damages, Mr Koh said that the management sent the letter to various parties, including government agencies, “without regard for the truth”.

In its defence, Oxley Bizhub’s MCST said in court documents that it denies the statements in the letter were defamatory, and that it had not published or circulated the letter to disparage Mr Koh or lower his standing.

It will seek to rely on the defences of justification, qualified privilege and fair comment.

Among its arguments, it said that Mr Koh had put “more pressure in a distasteful manner” and wore out the management by complaining to third parties, which potentially led to “a general depreciation in the property value of Oxley”.

It added that Mr Koh had indeed written to government agencies, statutory bodies or both, and possibly made the management look like it had failed to adequately maintain the building’s common property.

It argued that Mr Koh had not behaved in a manner befitting of a Public Service Medal holder and that he did not accept offers for mediation.

Mr Koh is represented by Mr Clarence Lun from Fervent Chambers, while Mr Terence Hua of Solitaire LLP represents Oxley Bizhub’s MCST.

Mr Koh rose to the rank of senior vice-president at Citibank, in a 26-year career at the bank that lasted till 2010.

Related topics

court defamation libel lawsuit Oxley Bizhub Koh Chong Chiah

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