SINGAPORE: On Thursday (28 Jul), Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan threaten legal action against Mr Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) over defamatory allegations unless an apology is issued and the statements are withdrawn.
Mr Shanmugam, the Minister of Law and Home Affairs, revealed that legal letters had been sent to LHY, who is the younger brother of Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong.
LHY is accused by the two ministers of asserting that they acted in self-interest and corruptly through the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).
He is also alleged to have claimed that the ministers received preferential treatment by having trees felled illegally and the state-funded renovations of 26 and 31 Ridout Road. Both ministers have vehemently denied these allegations, labelling them as false.
In his Facebook post, Mr Shanmugam wrote: “Lee Hsien Yang has accused us of acting corruptly and for personal gain by having Singapore Land Authority (SLA) give us preferential treatment by illegally felling trees without approval, and also having SLA pay for renovations to 26 and 31 Ridout Road. These allegations are false.”
Earlier this week, under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), Singapore’s fake news law, LHY was directed to issue a correction notice regarding his Facebook post that discussed the ‘Ridout Road Saga’.
However, after complying, LHY defended his initial allegations in a subsequent Facebook post, insisting that his original claims were not misleading.
In fact, In his original post, LHY criticized that his brother, PM Lee Hsien Loong, of squandering the trust they inherited from their late father, Lee Kuan Yew, recognized as the founder of modern Singapore.
LHY specifically mentioned two Temasek companies, Keppel and the former Sembcorp Marine, for committing serious corruption offenses.
He also mentioned a cabinet minister’s arrest on corruption charges, the inflation of circulation numbers by SPH Media Trust, and the resignation of the Speaker of Parliament due to an extramarital affair.
He concluded his post by asserting that his brother’s administration no longer deserves the trust of Singaporeans, thereby adding a critical note to the ongoing public debate.
Redditors suggest that LHY did not explicitly mention that both ministers had “acted corruptly”
Meanwhile, on the online Reddit forum, netizens actively discuss the legal action Singapore officials took against Lee Hsien Yang.
In a Reddit thread, some users pointed out that based on their understanding of LHY’s statement, they did not explicitly mention that K Shanmugam and Dr Balakrishnan had “acted corruptly.”
A Redditor pointed out that after he read LHY’s original post, and didn’t see any mention of corruption except for Keppel and SembCorp Marine. Many fellow Redditors upvoted the comment.
Merely complying with the law as Minister is not enough, and they ‘have to make a show of staying far away from the red lines’
Another Redditor responded, noting that LHY merely implied the possibility of such actions, emphasizing the importance of politicians avoiding even the perception of conflict of interest.
The Redditor highlighted that merely complying with the law is insufficient for ministers; they must visibly distance themselves from any ethical boundaries.
In agreement with the same perspective, another Redditor emphasized that LHY’s post seemed to imply the presence of a “conflict of interest” rather than outright “corruption”, as it is possible to have a conflict of interest without being involved in corrupt practices.
Some Redditors encourage LHY to take the matter to court
Meanwhile, some Redditors are urging LHY to take the matter to court as it could potentially lead to a deeper investigation and the revelation of further details during the trial.
One comment pointed out that involving the judiciary, which is known for its independence compared to the parliament, might ironically expose the authorities and potentially backfire on them.
Redditors hope for revelation of Ridout Road details in court proceedings
Another comment predicts that if the case proceeds to court, it would finally involve an independent arbiter to determine whether any wrongdoing was indeed involved with Ridout Road, as there is a defence of fair comment against defamation claims.
A Redditor responded, expressing the belief that LHY or his lawyers would have the opportunity to request SLA to produce relevant documents as part of the discovery process during the lawsuit.
Redditor called out the Minister for resorting to legal action after POFMA failed
Meanwhile, a comment criticized the Minister for threatening legal action after the POFMA direction failed.
The comment pointed out that since POFMA did not yield the desired results, threatening to sue appears like a reactive move. Instead, it suggested that the Minister should focus on humbling up and concentrating on constructive efforts to repair their public image.
Meanwhile, a Redditor raised a question about the selective legal action taken by the officials.
He pointed out that government officials rarely sue other Western media outlets over different matters, implying a potential personal motive behind the current legal threat.