PM Lee seeks substantial damages in lawsuit against TOC editor
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's lawyers are seeking substantial damages that reflect the "malice" shown by The Online Citizen (TOC) editor Terry Xu, who they said had not only defamed PM Lee in an article but also used the court proceedings to continue to do damage.
In their closing submissions for the defamation suit, PM Lee's lawyers noted that damages awarded in previous defamation cases involving government ministers here ranged from $100,000 to $400,000.
In asking for an unspecified amount of damages, they cited two previous defamation cases involving prime ministers of Singapore, in which damages of between $300,000 and $330,000 were awarded to PM Lee and his predecessor, Mr Goh Chok Tong, in their respective 2008 and 2005 suits against Singapore Democratic Party and its leader, Dr Chee Soon Juan.
Lawyers from Davinder Singh Chambers argued that the extent of the publication of the libel in Mr Xu's case and his "malice and aggravating conduct" were worse than in those two cases. The TOC case wrapped up yesterday after lawyers for both sides presented their closing arguments before Justice Audrey Lim, who will issue her judgment at a later date.
At the heart of the case is a TOC article published on Aug 15, 2019, which repeated allegations against PM Lee made by his sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling, in a Facebook post in May that year. PM Lee's brother, Mr Lee Hsien Yang, had also shared the post.
These included accusations that PM Lee misled his late father into thinking his 38 Oxley Road house had been gazetted by the Government, and it was futile for Mr Lee Kuan Yew to keep his direction to demolish it.
Mr Xu's lawyer Lim Tean of Carson Law Chambers has argued that the allegations by Dr Lee were not the main focus of the article, "PM Lee's wife, Ho Ching weirdly shares article on cutting ties with family members".
Mr Lim told the court yesterday: "Not a single comment directed to that article was about the paragraphs complained of or about (PM Lee) misleading his father. People unanimously took the point that this article was about the irony in what his wife did in sharing an article about cutting off toxic family members."
Senior Counsel Davinder Singh countered it was irrelevant how the readers who commented online reacted to the article at the time, as the court only had to consider what the offending words mean, whether that meaning is defamatory, and if so, what factors to consider in awarding damages.