*[Update: Jan.14] Roy Ngerng's lawyer M Ravi said that the notes did not state that Ngerng did not want to be cross examined.]
The Press Secretary to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Chang Li-Lin, refuted statements from CPF blogger Roy Ngerng's lawyers who claimed that Chang was “misinformed” over the blogger’s willingness to be cross-examined in the next hearing.
This was in relation to a closed-door hearing in the High Court on Monday, when Ngerng was asked to pay PM Lee $29,000 in legal fees and related expenses.
1. Ngerng's willingness to be cross-examined (Chang vs Ngerng)
Ngerng in his blog: "I have told the media who attended today’s hearing and pre-trial conference that I am ready to be cross-examined."
Chang's rebuttal: Ngerng was not present during this part of the hearing.
2. Ngerng's willingness to be cross-examined (Chang vs Ravi)
M Ravi's statement on The Online Citizen: His recollection is that “when asked, I would take instructions.” Ravi clarified that it is common and normal practice when a question as to a client’s current intention is asked by the Court. It means that a lawyer will always first verify whether his client will or will not be taking certain action. It carries no assertion either way.
Chang's rebuttal: Ravi's statements were based on his recollection, while her statement was based on notes of the hearing taken by Drew & Napier. Ravi had since acknowledged that the reproduced notes were “accurate, precise and complete as far as they go”.
From the notes, Chang said that PM's lawyer Davinder Singh gave Ravi notice that if Ngerng was going to give evidence for the purposes of the assessment of damages, Davinder would be cross-examining Ngerng. Chang said that Ravi then promptly changed his position, and informed the Court would therefore not be filing any evidence. Chang added that Ravi was so determined that Ngerng not be cross-examined that he even said to the Court “Enough Y[our] H[onour] I won’t be filing”. (Full notes on Channel NewsAsia).
3. Whether PM's Press Secretary to issue statements in connection with this case (Chang vs Ravi)
M Ravi statement on The Online Citizen: “Incidentally, as this is purportedly a private law suit brought by the Prime Minister in his personal capacity, can you explain why you as a Civil Servant holding the official title of Press Secretary to the Prime Minister would be issuing press releases on behalf of a private litigant?"
Chang's rebuttal: M Ravi "appears to have forgotten that, as the Court has found, Mr Ngerng falsely alleged that 'the plaintiff, the Prime Minister of Singapore… is guilty of criminal misappropriation of the monies paid by Singaporeans to the CPF'".
Two points to make about the exchange between Chang and Ravi/Ngerng:
1. What is the brouhaha over Chang's claims regarding Ngerng's willingness to be cross-examined?
In Chang's statement, she said that "the fact is that after Mr Ravi said that Mr Ngerng would not be giving evidence, and even after he tried to end the discussion, the Court asked Mr Ravi to consider the matter and let the Court and Drew & Napier know by 30 January 2015 if Mr Ngerng would be giving evidence".
In other words, Ngerng and Ravi can still change their mind and inform the court by 30 January if he wishes to give evidence and be cross-examined.
2. The legend of Davinder Singh just grows and grows.
The Drew & Napier notes gave one the impression that Ravi prefers to protect Ngerng from Davinder's cross-examination.
In fact, Ravi had since mentioned that he “moved swiftly” to protect Ngerng’s right to have the final say on whether to give evidence and be cross-examined, as he noticed the “sudden display of fervor” by Davinder.
And we all know why.
Davinder is the Chief Executive Officer of Drew and many know him as Singapore's "twin titans" of litigation alongside Law Minister K Shanmugam.
Who can forget the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) saga?
Davinder successfully represented Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) in the suit brought by ex NKF CEO TT Durai, for defamation.
Davinder's brilliant cross-examination of Durai not only helped SPH but also changed the public's opinion of NKF overnight.
Top photo from Lee Hsien Loong Facebook.