SINGAPORE: Lee Hsien Yang (LHY), younger brother of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has dismissed the claims made by Ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan that he had made defamatory allegations against them.
He has further challenged the ministers to sue him in the UK, a response following their threats of legal action unless he retracted his statements and issued an apology.
In a Facebook post on Saturday (29 Jul), LHY addressed the controversy, stating, “My post did not assert that Shanmugam and V Balakrishnan acted corruptly or for personal gain by having the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) give them preferential treatment by illegally felling trees without approval and also having SLA pay for renovations for them. My post simply stated facts that were already widely published in the Singapore and international media.”
Adding to this, he clarified that his post was made in the UK and challenged the ministers to sue him there if they believed they had a substantial case.
The discord between the parties had become evident earlier on Thursday when Mr Shanmugam, the Law and Home Affairs Minister, and Dr Balakrishnan, the Foreign Affairs Minister, had declared their intention to sue LHY, citing defamation, unless he withdrew his statements and issued an apology.
LHY’s earlier Facebook post discussed issues around the rental of properties from the Singapore Land Authority, which Mr Shanmugam – as Minister for Law – controls, the felling of trees and state-funded renovations at 26 and 31 Ridout Road.
However, LHY maintains that he was merely stating publicly available information, not asserting that the ministers had acted corruptly.
In response to LHY’s post, both ministers had requested him to retract his statements, issue an apology, and pay damages, with the proceeds going to charity.
The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) office, under the instruction of Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth and Second Minister for Law, had earlier directed LHY to issue a correction notice regarding his Facebook post discussing the ‘Ridout Road Saga’.
LHY complied with this order on Tuesday (25 Jul). Despite complying, LHY defended his post in a subsequent Facebook update, insisting that his original statements were not misleading.
The POFMA directive highlighted that the renovations at the cited properties were essential, and their funding by the SLA was not linked to the tenant ministers.
It was further clarified that independent arborists, following necessary approval from the National Parks Board (NParks), decided to fell trees at both properties for safety reasons.
The directive also refuted LHY’s claims about the SPH Media Trust inflating circulation figures, stating that this occurred under SPH Limited’s management before the formation of SPH Media Trust, which then addressed and investigated the overstatement upon discovery.
In his original post, LHY levelled criticism against the People’s Action Party (PAP), accusing the current administration, led by his brother, of squandering the public trust inherited from their late father, Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore.