SINGAPORE: Tan Kin Lian, a former NTUC Income chief and two-time Presidential candidate has recently penned his thoughts on the news that the two Singapore’s PAP ministers filed a defamation lawsuit against Lee Hsien Yang, the son of Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew.
Mr Tan perceives that Lee Hsien Yang (LHY)’s remarks, which the two ministers found issues with, are “quite mild”, especially when contrasted with the personal attacks he faced during the presidential campaign, where he was labeled as ‘racist’ and ‘sexist.’
He openly disagrees with Law and Home Affairs Minister Mr K Shanmugam and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who has accused LHY of making defamatory statements and false allegations.
Instead, Mr Tan views Lee Hsien Yang’s choice of words as “factual and non-defamatory”, and earnestly urges the two ministers to withdraw the lawsuit and allow the public to form their own judgment on this matter.
As reported by the Straits Times on Thursday (7 Sept), the court records indicated that attorneys representing the two ministers have requested permission to deliver legal documents to Lee Hsien Yang through Facebook Messenger.
This request was made on the basis that serving the court papers to Mr Lee personally in the United Kingdom was deemed impractical.
According to the court documents, the lawyers of the two PAP ministers had sent a letter to Mr Lee on 27 July, demanding the removal of his post and all related comments, and insisted on a prominent four-week public apology on his Facebook page.
LHY is accused of suggesting that the ministers acted corruptly, receiving preferential treatment from 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.
Tan Kin Lian queries the basis of the lawsuit by the two ministers
Tan Kin Lian, who recently contested the Presidential Election in 2023, took to Facebook on Friday (8 Sept) to question the specific content of Lee Hsien Yang’s post that led to this defamation lawsuit.
“According to the Straits Times, the post stated, among other things, that “two ministers have leased state-owned mansions from the agency that one of them controls, felling trees and getting state-sponsored renovations”.”
Mr Tan compared this to personal attacks he endured during the presidential campaign when ex-Singapore diplomat Bilahari Kausikan labelled him a “sexist” and a “racist.”
“Is that all? This is quite mild, compared a post by a prominent ex-diplomat that called me a “racist” and ” sexist” during the presidential campaign. These unfounded accusations were magnified manifold in the social and mainstream media.”
Mr Tan further urged the two ministers to discontinue their defamation suit on Lee Hsien Yang and allow the people to make their personal judgment on this matter.
“It may help to repair the tarnished reputation of Singapore. At the very least, it would show respect to the memory of our founding father, Lee Kuan Yew.”
Mr Tan defends LHY’s comment as “factual, disagrees with ministers’ interpretation
In the comments section, Mr. Tan expanded on his perspective, asserting that he considers Lee Hsien Yang’s choice of words to be factual and non-defamatory.
“The ministers said that he implied that they were corrupt. I do not agree with their interpretation of the words.”
Mr Tan expressed his belief that distorting a person’s words and then pursuing legal action based on those distortions is inherently unjust.
Mr. Tan’s motivation to stand in support of LHY stems from his own past experiences as a victim of such practices.
“I made a light hearted post 10 years ago about being in Mumbai. It was used to label me as a “racist” and I had to receive countless attacks.”
“I followed the advice of my friends to apologize for the incident. It did not help. The attacks continued in an uncontrolled manner,” Mr Tan added.
He He emphasized that he had worked closely with many Indian colleagues for three decades, developed strong friendships, and received endorsements from them attesting to his support and respectful treatment.
In another comment, Mr Tan added that He added that it’s common for individuals to offer “motherhood advice”, without fully grasping the complexities of a situation.
“I never give advice to other people on their personal matters. NEVER. I do not know enough of their personal circumstances to advise them.”
He then posed a question, “How many people have the courage to speak for Lee Hsien Yang here? It seems that most people prefer to give “motherhood advice” to TKL, rather than to speak up for LHY.”
Lee Hsien Yang criticised “Trust in the PAP has been ‘shattered’” in his original post
In his original post on 23 July, Lee Hsien Yang expressed his severe criticism of the current Singapore administration, and stated that the trust placed in the PAP had been “shattered.”
He criticized his elder brother, PM Lee Hsien Loong, for failing in his leadership role and squandering the trust inherited from their father, stating that “trust has to be earned, it cannot simply be inherited.”
LHY brought up several controversies and scandals. Beyond the rental of the Ridout Road properties by the two ministers, he also mentioned the arrest of a cabinet minister on corruption charges, the fraudulent inflation of circulation numbers by SPH Media Trust, to which the PAP government had promised S$900 million in funding, and the resignation of the Speaker of Parliament due to an extramarital affair.
LHY highlighted how these scandals reaffirmed his and his elder sister Dr Lee Wei Ling’s past assertion that they did not trust PM Lee Hsien Loong as a brother or a leader. This assertion was issued in a statement by the two siblings in June 2017.
He concluded his post with a damning statement: “These latest facts speak volumes. Hsien Loong’s regime does not deserve Singaporeans’ trust.”
LHY issued a POFMA Correction Direction over his 23 July’s post
A Correction Direction was issued to Mr Lee under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), stating several alleged inaccuracies in his post.
This included: the State funded renovations to 26 and 31 Ridout Road due to the properties being leased by Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan; trees at the same properties were felled because of the ministers; and the SPH Media Trust fraudulently inflated its circulation figures.
LHY has since complied with the POFMA’s correction direction.
According to the POFMA direction, the renovations at 26 and 31 Ridout Road were essential and unrelated to the tenant ministers.
The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) often invests heavily in the preservation of conserved properties, including these. Most of the renovation costs, deemed necessary by external consultants due to the properties’ condition and conservation requirements, were not tied to the tenant ministers.
Furthermore, the felling of trees at both properties, as asserted by Mr Lee, was unrelated to the tenant ministers. Decisions to fell trees were made by independent arborists after thorough inspections and the identification of safety issues. All required approvals for felling trees were obtained from the National Parks Board (NParks).
Finally, LHY’s assertion about the fraudulent inflation of circulation numbers by SPH Media Trust was refuted. The overstatement occurred when the media business was under SPH Limited, a listed company, before the formation of SPH Media Trust. Upon inheriting the media business, the Trust discovered, reported, and investigated this issue.
The Government’s funding agreement with SPH Media Trust was based on its transformation needs, not circulation numbers.