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National marathoner Soh Rui Yong has lost his second defamation lawsuit in a year after the State Courts ruled in favour of former Singapore Athletics (SA) vice-president and executive director Malik Aljunied.
According to The Straits Times, Soh had sued Malik for S$80,000 in damages over alleged defamatory comments the latter had made in a 2019 Facebook post.
While District Judge Lim Wee Ming found that Malik's comments were indeed defamatory, he explained in a 32-page written judgement issued on Jun. 9 that Malik had sufficiently proved his defence of justification.
In dismissing Soh's case, Lim found that the two-time SEA Games gold medalist had “persistently behaved unreasonably and illogically” to the extent that his "sense of logic and reason had been impaired", reported Today.
"I forgive Malik"
Soh took to Facebook after Lim's ruling to say he was reviewing the judgement with his lawyers before deciding if an appeal was "worthwhile".
The athlete said he had offered Malik an opportunity to settle the dispute out of court after the official admitted that his Facebook post had been made "impulsively" and "in poor taste".
However, Malik did not take him up on the offer.
"I forgive Malik and wish him all the best moving forward with his life," he said,
"I will now focus on my performance as an athlete and a law student."
Incapable of empathy & compassion
Soh and Malik's dispute started three years ago in the aftermath of Soh's controversial omittance from the 2019 SEA Games team by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) selectors, reported ST.
In making its decision, SNOC cited "numerous instances" where Soh had fallen short of conduct standards.
Explaining his judgement, Lim said the defamatory content of Malik's comments was the implication that Soh's "sense of logic and reason has been impaired" and that the athlete was "incapable of empathy, compassion, gratitude and the capability to love others".
To determine if Malik's comments were justified, Lim focused on three key areas:
- three incidents surrounding the 2017 SEA Games
- Soh's allegations regarding fellow marathoner Ashley Liew's act of sportsmanship at the 2015 SEA Games marathon
- Soh's comments about the SNOC after he was not selected for the 2019 SEA Games
The judge found instances in all three areas where Malik's comments were justified.
Incidents surrounding 2017 SEA Games
According to Today, the incidents from the 2017 SEA Games included Soh ignoring SNOC's "blackout period" when athletes are barred from promoting sponsors not approved by SNOC.
He also cut holes into attire that had been issued by an SA sponsor, causing the sponsor to terminate their agreement.
Lastly, after winning a gold medal, Soh publicly criticised SNOC's requirement that he donate 20 per cent of his S$10,000 reward to SA.
Defamation suit with Ashley Liew
Soh's long-running dispute with Liew stemmed from an allegation the former had made about an act of fair play by Liew at the 2015 SEA Games marathon, where the two were representing Singapore as teammates.
Liew was the only participant in the marathon who took the correct route, while the others missed a U-turn and took a different path.
As a result, Liew got ahead of everyone but slowed down to let the others catch up, before resuming his marathon pace.
While Soh won the race and Liew finished in eighth place, Liew received two awards for his sportsmanship.
In five online posts between June 2015 and August 2019, Soh disputed that Liew had even slowed down at all.
Liew later sued for defamation.
ST reported that with regard to his dispute with Liew, Soh displayed "unreasonable and illogical" conduct.
Comments about SNOC after non-selection
"It appears that (Soh) had already made up his mind that he was in the right and everyone else who contradicted him was wrong, irrespective of what other witnesses had seen," said Lim.
On Soh's comments about SNOC regarding his non-selection, Lim said that the outspoken athlete "went beyond expressing his objection to not being selected despite meeting the objective criteria".
Both parties will now commence discussions on costs. If they cannot come to an agreement, they will write in for the court to decide.
Top image from Soh Rui Yong's Facebook page
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