SINGAPORE: Last week, Mr K Shanmugam, the Law and Home Affairs Minister, of Singapore, and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, formally filed a defamation suit in the Singapore High Court against Lee Hsien Yang, the son of Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew.
The case is slated for an in-chamber hearing on Tuesday (5 Sept) at 9 am morning.
The two ministers are represented by three lawyers from Davinder Singh Chambers, including the prominent senior lawyer Davinder Singh, who previously represented Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in previous high-profile defamation cases.
In his latest Facebook post, Lee Hsien Yang, the younger brother of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said he invited the two PAP ministers to pursue legal action against him in the UK, where he “made the statement that upset them”.
“Instead, they have chosen to commence legal action in Singapore. It is for the public to judge their reasons.”
Lee Hsien Yang accuses Ministers Shanmugam and Balakrishnan of pressuring for false apology
On 27 July, Ministers Shanmugam and Balakrishnan announced plans to sue LHY over defamation allegations, unless an apology is issued and the statements are retracted.
LHY is accused of suggesting that the ministers acted corruptly, receiving preferential treatment by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) through unauthorized tree felling and state-funded renovations of 26 and 31 Ridout Road. Both ministers have categorically refuted these allegations.
In a Facebook post, Mr Shanmugam outlined their demands: Mr Lee is to retract his accusations, issue an apology, and pay damages, which would subsequently be donated to charity. Non-compliance would trigger a lawsuit.
In a later post, Lee Hsien Yang dismissed the claims made by the two Ministers.
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 29 July, 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.”
Lee Hsien Yang on 31 July further alleged that the two ministers were pressuring him to issue a public apology that he perceived to be falsified.
He claimed the ministers demanded he make a specific statement: “I recognise that the Post meant and was understood to mean that Mr K Shamugam/Dr Vivian Balakrishnan acted corruptly and for personal gain by having the Singapore Land Authority give him preferential treatment by felling trees without approval and illegally and having it pay for renovations to 31 Ridout Road.”
LHY staunchly defends his initial words: “Two ministers have leased state-owned mansions from the agency that one of them controls, felling trees and getting state-sponsored renovations.”
He believes his original statement does not equate to an allegation of corruption or personal gain, and criticizes the ministers for insisting on a “false apology” for words he claims he did not utter.
Claim amount in High Court civil litigation starts at S$ 250,000
With the two ministers officially filing the lawsuit, the next step, following the court procedure, would be to serve the summons on Lee Hsien Yang, who is also the younger brother of PM Lee.
If Lee Hsien Yang’s address is unknown, the plaintiffs can apply to the court to serve the summons through methods such as email, social media, newspaper advertisements, and more.
Subsequently, if Lee Hsien Yang fails to submit a defence within the stipulated timeframe, the plaintiffs can apply for a default judgment, securing a victory in the case and seeking compensation from Lee Hsien Yang.
Typically, the claim amount in High Court civil litigation starts at S$ 250,000.