Man gets $5,000 in damages for defamation in neighbours' dispute

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Condo resident who sued neighbour for $100,000 in defamation suit gets $5,000

A resident of Camelot By-The-Water condominium who sued another resident for $100,000 in damages for defamation was awarded $5,000.

Dr John Robertson Gillies had taken Dr Suresh Balan to court after a quarrel in June 2015 at the upscale Tanjong Rhu residential property where both had lived for more than 10 years.

In noting that the parties had allowed the dispute to escalate into a defamation suit, District Judge Chiah Kok Khun said in judgment grounds issued on Dec 8: "There are certainly better uses for the resources that a court case of this nature would entail. Moreover, it is unlikely that litigation would put an end to any of the underlying neighbourly issues behind the case."

Dr Gillies was known to have disagreements with residents and the condominium's management corporation (MC) over residents being dropped off and picked up along the estate's driveway.

He also has a history of expressing unhappiness with the noise made by young children at the condominium's swimming pool, the judge noted. The background was "alluded to" by resident Torbjorn Gunnar Karsson. The witness provided the perspective of an MC member who had served for some 10 years.

The offending remarks were made on June 22, 2015.

At a hearing this year, lawyers Eugene Thuraisingam and Suang Wijaya argued Dr Gillies was defamed and sought damages while lawyers A.S. Shankar and Nicole Cheah for Dr Balan disputed the claims.

The court found Dr Balan did make slanderous statements, which another resident, Ms Catherine Solange, witnessed. Dr Gillies' wife Gwen was also present when the statements were made.

Judge Chiah noted the reach of the defamation was limited to two persons - Mrs Gillies and Ms Solange - and ruled the appropriate quantum would be $5,000.

The judge said Dr Gillies did not succeed in his claim of defamation over two other sets of statements that took place on June 24, one of which involved a police report made by Dr Balan.

"As I have alluded at the beginning of this judgment, litigation is not the best answer to such disputes. The underlying neighbourly issues have to be first resolved.

"In the Arthurian world, Camelot represents a time, place or atmosphere of idyllic happiness. It is only when neighbourliness prevails that there will be hope for Camelot By-The-Water to live up to its name," said Judge Chiah.