If you had Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as a captive — and responsive — audience for an entire day, what questions would you ask him?
Singaporean blogger Roy Ngerng is probably one of the first non-lawyers to get this opportunity, representing himself in the three-day hearing to determine the six-figure sum that he will have to fork out to Lee for defamation. Civil cases heard at the High Court have a claim value of at least $250,000.
On Wednesday, we brought you a layman's account of events.
1. About his blog
Roy Ngerng: Do you know when I started writing my blog?
PM Lee: No.
Ngerng: 2012. Do you know how many articles I've written?
Ngerng: More than 400 articles.
Lee: Well done.
2. Where Ngerng accuses Lee of using the law to persecute him
Ngerng: You've already said that you admitted that you used the law against me.
Lee: I have sued you for defamation and you're very unhappy about it. You don't accept that you have defamed me. You think I'm prosecuting and persecuting you.
Ngerng: Mr Lee, first, do not put words into my mouth. I said I accepted the judgment, I did not say I do not accept the judgment.
Lee: Because having acknowledged that you defamed me and having taken back all the words, you are now saying that you are innocent, that I am prosecuting you, I am silencing you and it is wrong for me to do that, when in fact I'm just vindicating my reputation.
Ngerng: You sued me, right? Are you using the law to persecute me?
3. On Lee's approach in dealing with the libel
Ngerng: You did not reach out to me before you sued me?
Lee: No, you defamed me. I have to defend myself.
Ngerng: Yes, yes. The question is you didn't reach out to me.
Lee: Yes, I wrote you a letter asking you to take it down and apologise.
Ngerng: Now, Channel NewsAsia (CNA) wrote to me on Twitter, I used a photo of theirs and they asked for a photo credit. If you had reached out to me, we could have resolved things.
Lee: You have chosen a different path for your own reasons, I accept that. Well, you have to take the consequences.
Ngerng: Mr Lee, CNA did not send me a demand letter ... They request, and I did it voluntarily. Would you have chosen to not send me a demand letter?
Lee: You have been skirting closer and closer to defaming me for a long period of time. I have been watching this, I have not responded. Eventually, it was unambiguous and flagrant and I decided I had no choice but to act.
Ngerng: Mr Lee, you just made an accusation about me.
Lee: Because you have been making more and more outrageous allegations about the CPF, stopping short of accusing me of doing bad things personally, but coming closer and closer to saying that. And at some point last year, when you published this post on 15 May 2014, I consulted my lawyers and it was completely unambiguous and I could not not act.
4. On Lee's claim that a video he made warranted aggravated damages
Ngerng: If you give me a knife right now and I cut my own finger, just because you gave me the knife, does it mean that my cutting my own finger is your fault because you gave me the knife?
Lee: Knowing you, it may be.
5. Arguing against defamation and malicious intent
Ngerng: Can you point out which section of the post, which are taken from CNA as factual statements, show malicious intent?
Lee: I think that's meaningless. It is the totality that is condemnatory. The whole of the article should be taken.
Ngerng: How is my article defamatory when it is all factual statements? Did I mention your name in my articles?
Lee: No they did not mention my name... (but) All the institutions you mentioned are all in the government, which you have taken pains to prove that I am responsible for.
Ngerng: (In the event of an) SMRT breakdown, should SMRT('s chief) executive be responsible?
Lee's defence counsel Davinder Singh: Objection, I don’t see (the) connection...?
Justice Lee Seiu Kin: I think he's making a logical connection. *claps from a Ngerng supporter* I will throw out the next person who disturbs (these proceedings).
6. Getting slapped with Lee's sarcasm, but persisting anyway
Ngerng: How do you know the proportion of people who read the later article would look for offending image and article?
Lee: There's this thing called Google.
Ngerng: But do you have statistics or evidence? How would someone by looking at this blog gravitate to the offending words and image?
Lee: It would encourage people to search for it.
Ngerng: You assume.
7. Playing the sympathy card
Ngerng: Do you know I'm currently unemployed?
Lee: I'm sorry to hear that.
And later on,
Ngerng: Will you give me a second chance?
Lee: Saying sorry alone would have been plenty at one point, but unfortunately that is not only what you did.
Top photo by Ng Yi Shu.
Also on the PM Lee vs Roy Ngerng defamation case: