PM Lee: Article that Leong Sze Hian shared was an attack on me & S'pore govt

Quite serious.

Matthias Ang | February 27, 2019, 06:02 PM

The article that blogger Leong Sze Hian shared on his Facebook page was a personal attack and an attack on the government of Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asserted in his affidavit.

PM Lee's affidavit statements were in response to claims made by Leong to strike out the defamation suit filed by the Prime Minister against the blogger.

Leong's claim was that PM Lee's suit constituted an abuse of the process of court.

Defamed on a personal level

In his affidavit, PM Lee asserted why he was defamed on a personal and professional level:

"That article falsely alleged that I had become a key target of the investigations into 1MDB, that Mr Najib had signed several 'unfair agreements' with me, in exchange for assistance by Singapore banks to launder 1MDB's billions, and that I am corrupt.

That was an attack against me personally as well as against the Singapore government, of which I am the head."

PM Lee added that such an instance also called into question whether he was fit to be the Prime Minister of Singapore.

PM Lee stated that the article had also falsely defamed him and that he was entitled to defend his personal reputation.

PM Lee said:

"As an individual who has been falsely defamed, I am entitled to vindicate my reputation."

PM Lee added that Leong had also refused to apologise, despite being given a reasonable opportunity to do so.

Leong a well-known critic with reach

PM Lee highlighted that Leong was a well-known critic of the government and its policies, but that he had not sued Leong previously.

PM Lee said this instance was different:

"This time, however, he has falsely defamed me and has impugned my integrity and reputation."

PM Lee added that he was looking forward to Leong taking the opportunity to defend himself when the latter takes the stand in court to be cross-examined.

Leong: PM Lee's suit is not "a real and substantial" one

Leong's claim in his affidavit was that PM Lee's suit was not "real and substantial", which was why it constituted an abuse of the process of the court.

Leong had also written in his affidavit that the damages in the case were likely to be less than the legal costs to both sides involved in bringing the case to trial.

Leong had given his estimation of the legal costs as "in the region of S$150,000 to S$200,000 on each side", according to court documents seen by Channel NewsAsia.

Leong stated:

"To proceed with expensive litigation where publication is so small is, it is respectfully submitted, an abuse of the process of court."

Leong had also claimed the suit against him by PM Lee was an attempt to affect freedom of expression.

PM Lee, however, denied these assertions, stating:

"I also deny the defendant's assertions... that my claim against (him) should be struck out as an abuse of process because I have brought these proceedings against the defendant for a collateral advantage... to protect the reputation of the government or to chill freedom of expression by using the legal process to send a message to the population at large not to criticise me or the government."

Leong is currently represented by People's Voice Chief Lim Tean as his defence lawyer.

PM Lee is represented by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh.

A closed-door hearing on the case, lasting more than three hours, took place in the High Court on Monday, Feb. 25.

Justice Aedit Abdullah reserved his judgment.

A written judgment will be delivered at a later, unspecified date.

Here's everything that has happened in Leong vs. PM Lee so far:

Top image collage from Lee Hsien Loong Facebook & MS