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Were there shenanigans involved in issuing a POFMA direction followed by defamation suits on the same post?

Questions arise over the legal integrity, potential conflict, and possible contempt of court as Kenneth Jeyaretnam and Bertha Henson express concerns about the sequence of a POFMA Direction followed by defamation suits against Lee Hsien Yang, highlighting issues with the simultaneous use of these measures.



“It’s actually contempt of court for a POFMA Direction to be issued with the intention of prosecuting later or for the Minister to sue for defamation later.”

This was stated by Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam on Facebook on Monday, in response to a post on The Online Citizen’s (TOC) Facebook page.

For context, the post discussed former Straits Times journalist Bertha Henson’s query about why Lee Hsien Yang was sued for defamation by Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam and Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan despite complying with the POFMA correction direction on the same Facebook post.

On Sunday (26 May), Ms Henson expressed her scepticism about the necessity of the defamation lawsuit against Mr Lee Hsien Yang (LHY), suggesting it was redundant and potentially overreaching for individuals to comply with POFMA yet still face defamation lawsuits.

“If someone complied with POFMA, then there’s no need to remove the ‘offending words’, is there? Because the whole idea is to let everyone assess both versions.” said the veteran journalist.

After LHY’s Facebook post on 23 July 2023, commenting on the leasing of the Ridout estates by the two ministers, Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law, issued a Correction Direction under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) on 25 July.

This required LHY to publish the corrected notice prescribed by Mr Tong on his Facebook page. The notice included a link to a Factually article, which provided the Singapore government’s facts and clarifications on the matter.

LHY chose to comply with the POFMA direction and did not contest in the High Court—frankly, who would, given the interpretation principle of POFMA as defined by the Court of Appeal in the Singapore Democratic Party’s case?

However, while LHY complied with the instructions, on 27 July, the counsels for the two ministers threatened him with legal actions for defamation on the same Facebook post unless he apologized for making false allegations.

According to LHY, the ministers demanded he make a specific statement: “I recognize that the Post meant and was understood to mean that Mr K Shanmugam/Dr Vivian Balakrishnan acted corruptly and for personal gain by having the Singapore Land Authority give them preferential treatment by felling trees without approval and illegally and having it pay for renovations to 31 Ridout Road.”

Responding to the threats, LHY defended 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.

Given that the two ministers went high-profile by announcing the legal letters sent to LHY, they had no choice but to file their law suits against LHY after his non-compliance.

Ultimately, the defamation suits filed by the two ministers succeeded in the Singapore High Court. LHY, choosing not to represent himself, was ordered by the judge to pay S$200,000 in damages to each minister, along with nearly S$220,000 in costs, totalling S$620,000.

Reflecting on Mr Jeyaretnam’s comment, one wonders whether any shenanigans were involved when considering the sequence of events and the various elements surrounding what happened.

According to the Attorney General’s website’s definition of contempt of court, it states for contempt by interference:

“This category comprises a wide range of acts, including acts which risk prejudicing or interfering with a court proceeding that is pending (also known as sub judice contempt), acts impugning the integrity or impartiality of any court and posing a risk that public confidence in the administration of justice would be undermined (also known as scandalising contempt), and acts interfering with the ability of a witness to appear in court.”

While the POFMA direction was issued before the commencement of the suits by the two ministers, surely the consideration of whether legal actions would be launched by them is considered as although the POFMA direction was issued by Mr Tong, everyone knows Mr Shanmugam heads the ministry.

There does not appear to be any recusing of the Law minister in the POFMA direction issued by Mr Tong, and neither were there instructions to have anything in LHY’s post to be removed.

In fact, during the debate to pass the POFMA law back in 2019, Mr Tong stated, “In line with this new approach I mentioned earlier, the primary tool that we intend to use is the power to give people direct access to corrections. In other words, the falsehood stays up. People will then have access to both the falsehood and the corrections, and they can decide for themselves. In such a case, the Directions add to and not remove the discourse.”

To have a legal demand come from the two ministers over the Facebook post days after complying with the POFMA direction by the Ministry of Law, which Mr Shamugam heads, would have come as an utter shock and disbelief to many, including LHY himself.

Although the judge did not mention in his ruling how the POFMA direction influenced his decision, one has to question the potential risks to the administration of justice.

This coincidental arrangement of sequences and connections is exactly why people find it hard to believe that the Law Minister, who heads the Singapore Land Authority, had nothing to do with the arrangements of the leasing and refurbishing of his sultan-grade property at 26 Ridout Road.

In any case, the Law Minister’s position on using both the POFMA law and defamation in the same post might appear just to him as he said in parliament during the passing of the POFMA law, “The Defamation Act deals in the private law sphere, with damage to reputation. For example, if someone says you are corrupt, then if it is not true, you can sue to clear your name.”

Even so, given that the whole of Singapore would have known from the government-labelled correction notice that LHY’s post was considered fake news, where was the reputation damage by the time he and Dr Balakrishnan filed their lawsuits? Hadn’t the sting of the allegedly defamatory statement already been removed?

A point that does not appear to have been considered by the judge in his ruling for damages and a point that would have resulted in the case being thrown out in the United Kingdom, like that of British billionaire Sir James Dyson — A more logical reason as to why the two ministers declined the proposal by LHY to have the matter heard in the UK courts or to address the escalating dispute through independent arbitration.

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One can debate till the cows come home.

The BIG QUESTION to ask – Is This a Fair Trial? SINCE WHEN this PAP has been FAIR and TREATING Singapore Stakeholders FAIRLY?

These 2 bastards can lick and wash Loong’s balls. They cannot even measure up to a 10 % of what Teh Cheang Wan did honorably, yet with their MEGA Salaries Reputation they claimed their character was smudged. By way of Ben Leongs event, Shan ownself tarnished ownself by only a person many times lesser than his age. WTF. And the YOG budget SCANDAL, of WASTEFUL SPENDING till NOW no convincing figures HOW MUCH $ was reaped. These 2 bastards has the temerity to ask for $400k when their actions ALREADY TORE their own arses into smithereens, their faecals of which… Read more »

Before awarding damages, was the actual loss in reputation shown to the Court? Using case law to award damages does not equate with actual loss which has to be shown by the two Ministers who still remain as Ministers with no portfolio change. Our judiciary branch is really going downhill because it is under the PM’s office. If this was Malaysia, the present President of the Bar and all past Presidents would have weighed in on the outcome. In Singapore our Lawyers are all silent! We just need to vote these awful people out if we want to be proud… Read more »

First issue POFMA which can then be used as supporting? “evidence” that the offending words are defamatory in the subsequent lawsuit. Ooch … not to worry. I’m SURE all is above board. If there had been any niggling doubts, I’m SURE Shanmugam would have run it by SM PinnoTeo for his Okay and then Vivian would simply piggyback Shanmugam, you know just LIKE how both of them ended up renting the Ridout B&W bungaholes.


In certain legal suits cases, when jury are the indictment finalists to convict after a trial process – here in the SG, this PAP Administration with the clear looks of getting muddled in their crave for manipulation, control of Sheeps has GET THEMSELVES in TROUBLE which of course OWNSELF EXONERATE OWNSELF.

From another facet ACTUALLY the PAP Administration’s proxies Botak, and Vissy, has Hung itself in this case against Yang, like what’s CALLED a HUNG JURY.

The PAP Administration shot it self.

Enough of this rubbish pool of shit.
Enough of trying to understand their “logic” or “reasoning”

Just cast your votes for opposition.
That is the best solution.
No other way

And keep them out of parliament.

Bottom line is the MIW are very vindictive. They behave this way because of the pliant system that bows to their every needs. Remember, here in SG uniquely Indian can become Malay.

Off topic. But hope it’s timely, as part of exposure of the sins of dictators.

Looks quite clearly the PAP Administration’s course and causes of its actions. By inviting the Pope, is the PAP Administration hoping to wash it’s sins, it’s crimes against SGpns and “lo and behold, SGpns please vote for me, I m baptised”.

Are the laws in SG legislated as ‘hidden’ political weapons, the many applications of which seems to instil fear, make threats and bully anyone who offers opinions, make statements to their best of knowledge and honest, true, intentions, but which can be largely interpreted as unfavourable to those who were ruffled as their powers doesn’t seem to like to be shaken, or even questioned?

A judge working for and in the SG judiciary system claimed within is NOT inside (a Polling Station) at issue of which is the validity of a GE rule, which seems PAP Candidates had violated, by being situating themselves inside a Polling Station.

Is this the said judge’s personal opinion or his official judgement representing the SG judiciary, in interpretation of the GE law?