Singapore

PM Lee vs blogger Roy Ngerng: All about saying sorry?

Here's a look at the case that's drawing eyeballs now.

At a glance:

► Blogger Roy Ngerng was held to have defamed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a blog post last year about the CPF.

► In the post, Mr Ngerng had likened Mr Lee to City Harvest Church leaders facing prosecution for alleged misuse of $50 million in church funds.

► The trial judge had said that the post conveyed the impression that Mr Lee had misappropriated Singaporeans’ CPF savings.

►  A High Court hearing is now ongoing to determine the amount of damages that the blogger has to pay for defaming PM Lee.

This is what a packed courtroom heard at the start of the three-day hearing.

"I am sorry. I had no intent to defame you...I'm so sincere, I've apologised to you so many times that I've lost count." - Blogger Roy Ngerng

But Mr Lee said his apology was not sincere, pointing to recent blog posts:

“All I wanted was one apology and a follow-through. You went on to do other things. Your conduct shows that you have no intention of closing the matter properly." - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

What Roy Ngerng, 34, says:

Blogger Roy Ngerng and his parents leaving the High Court on July 1. PHOTO: ST FILE
  • He had not intended to defame Mr Lee.
  • Since he harboured no malice, there is no basis for Mr Lee to demand aggravated damages.
  • His remorse was evident, as he had made at least eight apologies, including one on his blog.
  • The article at the centre of the current legal action had only 9,112 views before the letter of demand from Mr Lee came but drew 93,324 views between May 19 and its removal from the blog two days later.
  • It's beyond his control if netizens hyperlinked to, or reproduced, his article on their blogs or Facebook pages.​
  • Providing the links also  “lacks the sting of the allegation”.
  • Mr Lee was unable to provide statistics to show the eventual reach of his defamatory article from second-degree posts, and was just making “inferences”.
  • He had made two offers to settle the matter out of court. 
  • The lawsuit was framed as “reckless”, given that Mr Lee had a wealth of resources at his disposal to first engage him in a public dialogue.

What PM Lee, 63, and his lawyers say: 

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arriving at the court for the three-day hearing. PHOTO: ST FILE
  • The blogger's actions have been deeply and intensely malicious.
  • By knowingly publishing a false and vicious libel to inflict maximum injury, Mr Ngerng "wanted to make as big a dent in my reputation as he could, by fair means or foul", Mr Lee said.
  • Mr Ngerng continues to exploit that libel and the ensuing lawsuit "to promote himself as a champion of free speech", Mr Lee's lawyers said.
  • He has misled Singaporeans, Mr Lee and even his own lawyers by apologising and taking down the defamatory statements, then posting them online again.
  • He had sought to rally people to his cause, by promising to speak the truth and to speak up for them.
  • He had also jumped at the opportunity to use the ensuing lawsuit to promote himself and advance his political agenda.
  • Allegations of corruption and criminal conduct are grave charges, especially if made against a country’s prime minister.
  • Such an allegation undermines Mr Lee's "ability to lead the country, sustain the confidence of the electorate and to discharge his functions as prime minister and chairman of GIC".
  • Given the extensive republication of the libel, Mr Ngerng’s egregious conduct and his malice and continuing attacks against Mr Lee, the blogger should pay "high damages".

Sources: The Straits Times, Business Times, Channel NewsAsia

bloggerRoy NgerngLee Hsien LoongdefamedamagesUncategorised