The Supreme Court has ordered Roy Ngerng to pay $150,000 in damages to PM Lee for defamation.
Two important questions need to be asked:
1 – Was PM Lee defamed by an ordinary citizen?
2 – Where is the evidence?
Judging from the recent GE results, PM Lee is now more respected than he ever was since the 2006 GE. So there is in fact no case for defamation.
For PM Lee to be defamed, it must mean a substantial number of people have been convinced by Roy’s post. However, there lies a possibility that, on the other hand, Singaporeans read it with a lorry load of salt.
If 1000 persons were asked “From Roy’s article, do you think PM Lee is a crook?”, the answer would likely have been negative. Which means the case has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
For all we know, there could have been perhaps only a handful swayed by Roy’s post. Paying $150,000 in damages is therefore unconscionable.
Justice Lee speculated that “it was likely that the defendant had cynically defamed the plaintiff in order to increase viewership of the blog”. This of course has no relevance to the case. Hmm .. judge also a mind reader meh?
Let’s put the figure of “37,223 readers” of Roy’s post into perspective and let common sense prevail.
Of the “37,223 readers”, how many became convinced that PM Lee was a crook?
“37,223 readers” is less than one percent of the resident population. And the final figure, a fraction of the 37,233 readers, is really, really insignificant. For that, should $150,000 in damages be paid by an ordinary citizen? Should the PM, the most powerful man on our land, be able to bankrupt an ordinary citizen for what is perceived to be a trivial matter in all other democratic countries?
If PM Lee feels his reputation is so easily affected by the blogpost of an ordinary citizen, then he had no reputation to begin with.
For Roy’s post to “severely undermined the credibility of” PM Lee, the court must produce evidence, which it has not. I would like to ask Justice Lee these questions:
Was even one of your family members convinced by Roy’s post that PM Lee was not an upright person?
Were any of your friends convinced?
Did Justice Lee have less trust in PM Lee after reading Roy’s post?
If the majority of people were not convinced, how could PM Lee’s credibility be undermined?
As if mind reading wasn’t enough, Justice Lee had to shoot himself in the foot by asserting there was “no evidence of his perceived credibility or the influence he actually wielded”. So, how come low credibility/little influence = high damages? Most ordinary citizens catch no ball, please explain.
Justice Lee also admitted there were no precedents involving “a defendant of modest standing”. That being the case, damages awarded should not be based on “a substantial reduction” from damages awarded against others with high standing.
In 2010, the International Herald Tribune was forced to pay $160,000 (US$114,000) in damages to our leaders for describing “the island nation’s leaders as a political dynasty”. By forcing Roy to pay $150,000 in damages, is Roy’s blog = reputable international media?
When damages awarded to the powerful and wealthy seeks to bankrupt an ordinary citizen, the justice system shows an utter disregard for justice. It’s about time such a law is reviewed or Singapore’s ‘rich/powerful man justice’ will continue to be a laughing stock to the rest of the world.
To sum up, there’s actually no evidence to support the excessive damages awarded to PM Lee.
PM Lee might have won the defamation suit in court but in the global court of public opinion, he will become a disgrace to our country. It is not difficult for Lee Hsien Loong to decide how he wants to go down in history.