SINGAPORE: Former Reform Party member Thaddeus Thomas recently issued an apology and vowed to cover the legal expenses of Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam.
In a statement issued on 21 December 2023 on his TikTok account @thaddeusthomas81, Mr Thomas admitted to publishing false and defamatory statements concerning Mr Shanmugam on 17 August last year. This statement was also shared on his Facebook account.
He acknowledged that these statements were entirely baseless and without any factual foundation.
“I was a member of the Reform Party when I published those statements. I admit that I intended to put up these falsehoods and acknowledge that those statements are false and completely without foundation.”
Additionally, he admitted to deliberately ignoring correspondence from Minister Shanmugam’s legal representatives sent via Facebook Messenger on 25 August in an attempt to evade identification or contact.
Thomas justified his actions by stating, “I had hoped that Mr K Shanmugam would not be able to identify or reach me since my contact details were not identifiable from my posts. I thus did not take down the TikTok post and did not reply to Mr K Shanmugam’s lawyers.”
The content has since been removed from TikTok.
Mr Thomas further revealed that he only replied to Mr Shanmugam’s counsel letter on 30 November, when he read in a Straits Times article that Mr Shanmugam had applied for court orders to compel TikTok to disclose user information.
Expressing deep regret and offering an unequivocal apology for spreading false and defamatory statements about Mr Shanmugam, Thomas admitted to receiving advice that led to the creation of the misleading TikTok post.
“I regret my actions and apologise unreservedly to Mr K Shanmugam for making the false and libellous statements on my Tik Tok post. I admit that I received advice and encouragement to put up my false post and regret listening to this advice. ”
Thomas highlighted Mr Shanmugam’s decision not to pursue damages despite the seriousness of the allegations, expressing gratitude for this leniency.
” I have asked Mr K Shanmugam to not ask for damages, and he has kindly agreed, despite my scurrilous allegations. I will pay the legal costs incurred by Mr K Shanmugam,” Mr Thomas concluded.
Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam, RP’s Secretary General, told Gutzy that Mr Thomas was already not a member of RP before the making of the social posts and had left the party for personal reasons.
In November last year, Minister Shanmugam took to State Court to sue TikTok through three applications of the Protection against Harassment Act (POHA), following TikTok’s failure to assist in identifying three users who allegedly uploaded videos spreading false allegations about Mr Shanmugam.
Court documents reveal that on 13 August, a TikTok user “@trusted.selller”, allegedly uploaded a video with two images captioned “GIVE HIM A DEFAMATION SUIT SISTER #MINISTER #SG #VIRAL #EXWIFE,” depicting Mr Shanmugam and his former wife.
Another user, “@tharakhussin,” reportedly uploaded a video on 15 August, displaying an article headline from celebscritic.com, implying an extra-marital affair between Mr Shanmugam and MP Foo Mee Har.
Mr Shanmugam then initiated separate proceedings against celebcritics.com, with the State Courts declaring the article’s contents false on 15 September last year.
A third user, “@thaddeusthomas81,” allegedly posted a video on August 17 about the minister, captioned “Clarifications and a look at who is the wife and alleged mistress,” featuring an image of Ms Foo. In his affidavits, Mr Shanmugam denies these allegations.
Mr Shanmugam addressed these false claims on his Facebook account in August, stating that the allegations attributed to his former wife were made by an imposter, confirmed by his ex-wife.
He also declared the affair allegations with an MP as “false and baseless,” referencing an August 18 article by Mothership that detailed apologies from individuals who published similar allegations.
In another post made in August, Mr Shanmugam clarified a past incident concerning an imposter who falsely claimed to be his ex-wife, Jothie Rajah, daughter of Senior Counsel and former Judicial Commissioner of the Supreme Court of Singapore, K.S. Rajah.
“A person pretending to be my ex-wife Jothie, put up a nasty, false post, many years ago,” he shared. Mr Shanmugam confirmed that Jothie had disavowed any connection to the post, attributing it to the imposter.
While he had initially considered filing a police report when the issue first emerged, he chose not to. With the post resurfacing, he now plans to proceed with the police report.
Mr Shanmugam and Jothie Rajah were previously married for 15 years, but their marriage ended due to “mutual incompatibility”.
Speculations and allegations, such as the ones the Minister recently addressed, have been cited by some as potential reasons for their separation, although these claims remain unsubstantiated.
Public scrutiny on minister amid legal dispute
In addition to the POHA applications, Mr Shanmugam is facing public scrutiny over renting 26 Ridout Road, a substantial black-and-white bungalow spanning 23,164 sqm (249,294 sq ft), for S$26,500 from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). Notably, the SLA is a statutory board under his purview as the Minister for Law.
Statements regarding this issue from Mr Shanmugam and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan were presented during a parliamentary session in July.
Members of the People’s Action Party (PAP) government, including Cabinet members, have denied any misconduct. They pointed to reviews conducted by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), which exonerated both ministers.
Despite these clarifications, concerns about a potential conflict of interest remain. The act of negotiating with an agency within one’s own ministry, even after recusal, can lead to perceptions of impropriety, seemingly contradicting the Ministers’ Code of Conduct established in 1954.
The July parliamentary session highlighted these concerns, with both opposition members and the public calling for more transparent answers. However, the responses given were deemed largely unsatisfactory.
Moreover, Mr Shanmugam and Dr Balakrishnan are entangled in a legal dispute with Mr Lee Hsien Yang (LHY), the son of the late Lee Kuan Yew. This dispute centres on a Facebook post by LHY that critiques the declining trust in the PAP government and mentions the two ministers’ leases of state-owned properties at Ridout Road.
The Singapore court in November 2023 ruled in favour of the two ministers in this case against LHY.
As a result, LHY is obligated to pay damages, the amount of which is yet to be determined. Additionally, an injunction has been issued preventing LHY from reposting the allegedly defamatory statement.
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