Sunday, 5 July 2015

Roy Ngerng to pay PM Lee $150k for defamation


* Blogger can pay damages to PM in instalments
But he will be given time to pay off the $150,000 only if he foots the hearing costs of $30,000 by tomorrow
By Lee Min Kok, The Straits Times, 15 Mar 2016

Blogger Roy Ngerng will be allowed to pay the $150,000 in damages he owes to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in instalments.

Mr Ngerng, 34, had asked to be let off by paying only $36,000 out of the full amount he owes. He is supposed to pay $30,000 in costs and another $150,000 in damages to Mr Lee.

However, Mr Lee's press secretary Chang Li Lin said the Prime Minister had responded to say that Mr Ngerng had to discharge his entire debt.

But Mr Lee was prepared to give Mr Ngerng time to pay the $150,000 by instalments, provided he pay the costs immediately, she added in reply to media queries after a closed-door court hearing on the case yesterday.

"Mr Ngerng has agreed and this was recorded by the court," said Ms Chang.

Blogger Roy Ngerng will start paying $100 a month from April 1. This will be increased to $1,000 a month on April 1, 2021. He should be done paying back by 2033.
Posted by The Straits Times on Sunday, March 13, 2016


Based on this arrangement, Mr Ngerng will have to pay $30,000 by tomorrow. This sum covers the costs of the three-day hearing held in July last year to assess damages due to Mr Lee.

Mr Ngerng had discharged his lawyer to conduct the hearing himself, and had cross-examined Mr Lee for six hours.

For the instalments, Mr Ngerng will start paying $100 a month from April 1. His lawyer, Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, said that he will continue to pay this amount for the next five years until April 1, 2021, when the monthly payments will be increased to $1,000 until the full sum has been paid. He should be done paying the total sum by the year 2033.

It was also agreed that Mr Ngerng will not have to pay any interest if he makes each payment on time. Should he fail to do so, the full amount outstanding - including court judgment interest - will be payable immediately.

The interest is a default rate provided by the court, pegged at 5.33 per cent a year.

Mr Ngerng had started a fund-raising drive for his legal fees in 2014, after being sued for defamation over a blog post in which he alleged that Mr Lee had misappropriated the Central Provident Fund savings of Singaporeans.

In just a month, he raised more than $110,000. He had said that $70,000 will be set aside for his legal fees, while the rest will be used to pay the costs if he loses.

On Dec 17 last year, Mr Ngerng was ordered to pay Mr Lee $150,000 for defamation after Justice Lee Seiu Kin, in a 73-page decision, said the blogger's conduct had been malicious and that it was likely he "cynically defamed" Mr Lee to increase viewership of his blog, The Heart Truths.

The amount comprises $100,000 in general damages and $50,000 in aggravated damages.

Mr Ngerng yesterday made an appeal to the public on his site for funds to pay the costs and damages.





Another round of donations.
Posted by Mothership.sg on Monday, March 14, 2016






JUST IN: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's lawyer has received S$30,000 from blogger Roy Ngerng, "in accordance with the...
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Wednesday, March 16, 2016






Blogger pays $30,000 in costs over defamation case

By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 17 Mar 2016

Blogger Roy Ngerng yesterday paid $30,000 to cover the costs of a defamation case, as part of a payment arrangement reached with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Over the past two days, Mr Ngerng raised more than $12,000 after making an online appeal to the public for funds to help him pay the costs and damages he owes.

PM Lee's press secretary, Ms Chang Li Lin, said in response to media queries that Mr Lee's lawyer received $30,000 from Mr Ngerng.

The sum covers the costs of a three-day hearing last July to decide on damages due to Mr Lee after Mr Ngerng was found to have defamed him. Hearing costs aside, Mr Ngerng has to pay $100,000 in general damages and $50,000 in aggravated damages.

Blogger Roy Ngerng has paid part of the amount he owes over his defamation case, partially fulfilling a settlement agreement he has with PM Lee.
Posted by The Straits Times on Wednesday, March 16, 2016


The blogger was found to have defamed the Prime Minister in a 2014 blog post alleging that Mr Lee misappropriated the Central Provident Fund savings of Singaporeans.

High Court Judge Lee Seiu Kin said in a judgment last December that Mr Ngerng's conduct was malicious and it was likely he "cynically defamed" Mr Lee to increase viewership of his blog.

Mr Lee agreed to Mr Ngerng paying the damages in instalments as long as he paid the $30,000 hearing costs by yesterday.

Mr Ngerng will take about 17 years to pay off the $150,000, and will not have to pay any interest as long as he makes the payments on time. He will start by paying $100 a month from April 1 this year. From April 1, 2021, the monthly amount will be increased to $1,000. He should be done paying the total sum by 2033.

Yesterday, Mr Ngerng explained on his website the use of most of the $127,000 that he raised from individuals and organisations in 2014 after he was sued for defamation.

Of that sum, $50,000 went to his first lawyer, Mr M. Ravi, while $30,000 was payment for his second lawyer, Mr George Hwang.

Mr Ngerng said he also paid $35,000 to Mr Lee's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, which covers the cost of two earlier hearings.

The first was for a summary judgment that Mr Lee obtained against Mr Ngerng. This is a process where a judgment is sought without going for a full trial. The second was a hearing to decide if Mr Ngerng could get a Queen's Counsel from Britain to represent him.

Another $7,000 went to court fees, Mr Ngerng said, adding that he had spent $122,000 in all.





Blogger ordered to pay PM $150k in damages
Judge says Roy Ngerng's conduct had been malicious and he likely 'cynically defamed' PM to draw more to his blog
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 18 Dec 2015

Blogger Roy Ngerng was ordered by the High Court yesterday to pay Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong $150,000 for defamation.

The amount comprises $100,000 in general damages and $50,000 in aggravated damages.

Justice Lee Seiu Kin found Mr Ngerng's conduct had been malicious, and it was likely he "cynically defamed" PM Lee to increase the viewership of his blog, The Heart Truths.

Blogger Roy Ngerng has been ordered to pay PM Lee Hsien Loong $150,000 for defamation.
Posted by The Straits Times on Thursday, December 17, 2015


Mr Ngerng, 34, has published almost 400 articles criticising the Central Provident Fund (CPF) system, but crossed the line when he "called the plaintiff a thief" without any basis, the judge said in a 73-page decision.

He added that Mr Ngerng knew the May 15 article last year would be defamatory, and yet went ahead to publish it. "As is apparent from recent events in this region, an accusation that one has criminally misappropriated monies paid by citizens to a state-administered pension fund is one of the gravest that can be made against any individual, let alone a head of government," Justice Lee said. "Such accusations, striking at the heart of one's personal integrity, can severely undermine the credibility of the target."

The publication of the initial Letter of Demand sent by PM Lee's lawyers three days later increased the reach of the defamatory material and likelihood of its republication, the judge said. But, he added, he also took into account that visitors to the blog at the time could have "exercised a greater degree of scepticism as to its contents".

After making a public apology to PM Lee on May 23 last year, Mr Ngerng wrote several articles, uploaded a video and sent e-mails to international media to draw attention to the suit. All these would make it appear to a disinterested observer that the blogger was not contrite, Justice Lee said, and would have "done little to appease the injured feelings of the plaintiff".

Further, Mr Ngerng had seemed to suggest PM Lee was "using the present suit not just to vindicate his reputation, but to quell political dissent, or even to prevent investigation into the mismanagement (dishonest or otherwise) of the CPF monies", the judge said.

PM Lee's defamation suit is the first in Singapore taken by a political leader over online remarks.

PM Lee's lawyers, led by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, sought a "very high award" of damages, arguing that the blogger's actions stood out for the depth and intensity of his malice towards PM Lee.

Justice Lee said that while higher damages are usually awarded in libel cases involving public leaders due to their position and standing, the quantum must also be commensurate with the defamer's standing.

The reach of Mr Ngerng's blog, said Justice Lee, was "not necessarily indicative" of his credibility. And despite his portrayal of himself as the "voice of truth" and as having significant standing, there was "nothing to show" this was the case.

"Notwithstanding his attempts to fashion himself as an investigative journalist of sorts, the defendant has never sought to conceal the fact that he is merely an ordinary citizen writing on his personal blog," the judge said. He also noted that the article was well-structured and grammatical and was bolstered by charts and statistics from verifiable sources. This, he said, gave it some influence above a run-of-the-mill blog, but much less than that of a newspaper.

While the damages awarded to a prime minister for libel had been more than $300,000 in the past 20 years, Justice Lee said "a substantial reduction" was appropriate given Mr Ngerng's modest standing.

PM Lee's press secretary Chang Li Lin said, in response to media queries, that the PM accepts the judgment and award of the court.

Mr Ngerng, now a freelance photographer and videographer, told The Straits Times he would consult his lawyer on his next step, including whether to appeal against the sum of damages. "At this point, I have put this case behind me and am trying to move on with my life."

He has not posted on his blog for more than three months.




#halfHeartedTruths. Gaining sympathy or really moving on? For someone who created much half truths, flip flop to game...
Posted by Fabrications About The PAP on Thursday, December 17, 2015




About the case
The Straits Times, 18 Dec 2015

Blogger Roy Ngerng was sued for defamation by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over a blog post that alleged Mr Lee had criminally misappropriated Singaporeans' Central Provident Fund savings.

In the May 15 post last year, he had likened PM Lee to City Harvest Church leaders who were facing prosecution then for alleged misuse of $50 million in church funds.

Mr Ngerng, 34, was asked in a lawyer's letter to remove the post immediately, apologise and give a written offer of damages and costs. He took down the post and put up an apology on his blog, admitting that he had defamed Mr Lee. He also appealed for the payment of damages to be dropped.

But he repeated the same allegations in a video and other online posts, and also sent these to local and international media. He then offered to pay $5,000 in damages, but the sum was deemed "derisory" by Mr Lee's lawyers, given his actions.

Mr Lee eventually sued Mr Ngerng for defamation and applied to the High Court for a summary judgment, as Mr Ngerng had admitted to the defamation and had no defence against the claim.

In November last year , Justice Lee Seiu Kin ruled that Mr Ngerng had defamed Mr Lee. In May this year, Mr Ngerng made an offer to pay $10,000 in damages to settle the matter out of court, but this was rejected in the light of his actions. In July, after discharging his lawyer, he cross-examined Mr Lee for six hours at a hearing to assess damages.





Hearing to assess damages Roy Ngerng must pay PM Lee
Blogger cross-examines PM for 6 hours
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 2 Jul 2015

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was cross-examined by blogger Roy Ngerng for six hours in the High Court yesterday in a hearing to assess damages for libel.

Mr Lee's lawyers, led by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, are seeking aggravated damages over remarks Mr Ngerng, 34, made in a blog post on the Central Provident Fund in May last year that conveyed the impression Mr Lee had misappropriated citizens' savings.

Mr Lee told the court that all it would have taken for Mr Ngerng to avoid being sued was a sincere apology. Instead, the blogger repeated the libel and characterised himself as a victim of political persecution.

Mr Ngerng, who discharged his lawyer last week, said he had no intention to defame Mr Lee, and posed all manner of questions to him, at times leaving those in court puzzled at his queries, and drawing objections from Mr Singh. But Justice Lee Seiu Kin said he would give Mr Ngerng more latitude as he was representing himself.

At the close of yesterday's session, Mr Ngerng asked if saying sorry was not enough. Mr Lee replied: "Saying sorry alone would have been plenty, but unfortunately, that's not only what you did."





Lawyers for PM seek high award of damages
They cite blogger's egregious and malicious actions and continued attacks on the PM
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 2 Jul 2015

Lawyers for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong argued yesterday for a very high award of aggravated damages in the defamation case against Mr Roy Ngerng, saying the blogger's actions stood out for the depth and intensity of his malice towards Mr Lee.

More than a year after apologising for his libellous blog post, Mr Ngerng remains resolved to injure Mr Lee's reputation, the lawyers added in an opening statement submitted to the High Court yesterday.

Mr Lee's lawyers, led by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, noted that damages in previous libel suits involving top government leaders ranged from $100,000 to $400,000. But this case merited higher damages, given Mr Ngerng's egregious and malicious actions and continued attacks on Mr Lee.

They cited, among others, the viciousness of the libel, how extensively it was republished, Mr Ngerng's conduct, and his continuing attacks against Mr Lee.

"From the very first, the defendant set out to wound... He knowingly and maliciously published a false and vicious libel against the plaintiff to inflict maximum injury. He then cynically capitalised on, and continues to exploit, that libel and the ensuing lawsuit to promote himself as a champion of free speech," Mr Lee's lawyers said.

Justice Lee Seiu Kin had held last November that Mr Ngerng's post suggested that Mr Lee had misappropriated Singaporeans' Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings, as Mr Ngerng had likened Mr Lee to City Harvest Church leaders facing prosecution for alleged misuse of $50 million in church funds.

The three-day hearing that started yesterday is to assess the damages Mr Ngerng has to pay Mr Lee.

Yesterday, Mr Ngerng apologised to Mr Lee, but soon alleged that Mr Lee was being "reckless" in bringing the suit. The blogger suggested that Mr Lee was not doing his duty as the Prime Minister by suing a citizen, when it was his duty to protect his citizens.

Mr Lee said that anyone was entitled to discuss CPF and other government policies. What he had taken umbrage at was the defamatory remarks, not the criticisms levelled at the CPF scheme.

Mr Lee also told the court that even as Mr Ngerng was apologising, he was aggravating the injury.

In their submission, Mr Lee's lawyers cited previous defamation rulings to argue that allegations of corruption and criminal conduct "are grave charges", especially if made against a country's prime minister.

They noted Mr Lee's "life, reputation and ability to lead Singaporeans and GIC are all founded on his unflinching fidelity to integrity".

"It is therefore an extremely serious matter for the defendant to accuse the plaintiff of criminally misappropriating the monies paid by Singaporeans to the CPF," they said. "Such an allegation undermines the plaintiff's ability to lead the country, sustain the confidence of the electorate and to discharge his functions as Prime Minister and chairman of GIC."

The lawyers added that Mr Ngerng's actions show he harbours "a deep-seated hatred" of Mr Lee. "That is the only explanation for the venom in his continuing attacks and his relentless aggravation," they added.

"The case for a very high award of damages, including aggravated damages, is compelling," they said.

Mr Ngerng's conduct was also cited as an aggravating factor, they added, citing how he had used the lawsuit to promote himself and advance his political agenda.

Mr Lee noted how even as the blogger undertook not to repeat the libel and professed his sincerity about wanting to resolve matters, he had broken his promises.

Even as he removed the offending blog post and apologised, he later sent it to the media, and repeated the libel in other online articles and interviews.

Said Mr Lee: "He wanted to make as big a dent in my reputation as he could, by fair means or foul."




'NO CHOICE BUT TO ACT'

You have been skirting closer and closer to defaming me for a long period of time. I have been watching this, I have not responded. Eventually, it was unambiguous and flagrant and I decided I had no choice but to act.

- PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG, in response to Mr Ngerng when asked why he had issued a letter of demand instead of asking him nicely to remove the blog post.





Blogger's questions show lack of contrition: Lawyer
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 2 Jul 2015

Facing for the first time the man who successfully sued him for defamation last November, blogger Roy Ngerng began his cross-examination of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the High Court yesterday with an apology for his defamatory remarks.

But his line of questioning, during Mr Lee's six hours on the witness stand, showed he was anything but contrite, said the PM's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh.

Before a packed courtroom and flanked by activists Leong Sze Hian and Han Hui Hui, Mr Ngerng would often repeat his questions and give clarifications of his intentions in writing his defamatory blog posts.

He would also flip through bundles of documents seeking questions to ask the PM, sometimes coming up with hypothetical scenarios that Mr Singh charged had little relevance to the hearing.

The three-day hearing, starting yesterday, was to assess damages Mr Ngerng has to pay Mr Lee.

Mr Ngerng declared several times yesterday that he accepted the summary judgment made last November, but said he did not deserve to pay the "very high damages" Mr Lee was seeking as he did not intend any malice.

He tried to do this by getting Mr Lee to agree that many statements in his blog post were factual and taken from news articles or websites. Thus, they could not possibly show malicious intent, he argued.

After a lengthy stretch of back-and-forth, Mr Lee said the exercise was "meaningless" as it was Mr Ngerng's blog post, taken as a whole, that was defamatory.

Mr Ngerng, who is representing himself after discharging his lawyer last week, often veered off into topics that puzzled the judge as well.

He asked questions on whether the Government is the sole equity shareholder of Temasek Holdings, and if Temasek Holdings owned the assets on its balance sheet.

It led Justice Lee Seiu Kin to ask: "What is the question here, Mr Ngerng?"

Several of his questions also required the Prime Minister to explain Mr Ngerng's intentions in writing the defamatory blog post.

After a couple of hours, Justice Lee told him Mr Lee would be unable to provide evidence of whether he had intended any malice: "He won't know what your intentions are... It's for you to persuade me that you have none. So this line of questioning that you're trying to establish from him, that you have no malice, will not get you anywhere."

Mr Ngerng even brought up his current jobless state: "Do you know I'm currently unemployed?"

Mr Lee replied: "I'm sorry to hear that."

Later, the judge told Mr Ngerng: "I have to be careful not to allow resources of the court to be used for purposes other than to investigate (the quantum of damages)."

The day's long-drawn-out proceeding was punctuated by several moments of levity, however, thanks to Mr Ngerng's analogies.

Disputing PM Lee's claim that a subsequent video he made was grounds for aggravated damages, he asked: "If you give me a knife right now and I cut my own finger, just because you gave me the knife, does it mean that my cutting my own finger is your fault because you gave me the knife?"

Mr Lee said: "Knowing you, it may be."

Towards the end of the day, Mr Ngerng asked Mr Lee if he was willing to settle out of court. He also asked if Mr Lee would give him a second chance.

Mr Lee said: "Saying sorry alone would have been plenty at one point, but unfortunately that is not only what you did."

The Prime Minister said he was "not in control of the court situation" and that he was content to have the court decide the damages.

Mr Ngerng then asked why he had issued a letter of demand through a lawyer instead of asking him in a nicer manner to take down the blog post.

Said Mr Lee: "You have been skirting closer and closer to defaming me for a long period of time. I have been watching this, I have not responded. Eventually, it was unambiguous and flagrant and I decided I had no choice but to act."





Exchanges in court
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 2 Jul 2015

Here are extracts of exchanges in court during Mr Roy Ngerng's cross-examination of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.


ON THE BLOG THE HEART TRUTHS

Mr Roy Ngerng (RN): Do you know when I started writing my blog?

PM Lee Hsien Loong (PM): No.

RN: 2012. Do you know how many articles I've written?

PM: No.

RN: More than 400 articles.

PM: Well done.


ON MR LEE SUING FOR LIBEL

RN: You've already said that you admitted that you used the law against me.

PM: I have sued you for defamation and you're very unhappy about it. You don't accept that you have defamed me. You think I'm prosecuting and persecuting you.

RN: Mr Lee, first, do not put words into my mouth. I said I accepted the judgment, I did not say I do not accept the judgment.

PM: Because having acknowledged that you defamed me and having taken back all the words, you are now saying that you are innocent, that I am prosecuting you, I am silencing you and it is wrong for me to do that, when in fact I'm just vindicating my reputation.

RN: You sued me, right? Are you using the law to persecute me?

PM: No.


ON WHETHER MR LEE APPROACHED MR NGERNG BEFORE THE LAWSUIT

RN:You did not reach out to me before you sued me?

PM: No, you defamed me. I have to defend myself.

RN: Yes, yes. The question is you didn't reach out to me.

PM: Yes, I wrote you a letter asking you to take it down and apologise.

RN: Now, Channel NewsAsia (CNA) wrote to me on Twitter, I used a photo of theirs and they asked for a photo credit. If you had reached out to me, we could have resolved things.

PM: You have chosen a different path for your own reasons, I accept that. Well, you have to take the consequences.

RN: Mr Lee, CNA did not send me a demand letter ... They request, and I did it voluntarily. Would you have chosen to not send me a demand letter?

PM: You have been skirting closer and closer to defaming me for a long period of time. I have been watching this, I have not responded. Eventually, it was unambiguous and flagrant and I decided I had no choice but to act.

RN: Mr Lee, you just made an accusation about me.

PM: Because you have been making more and more outrageous allegations about the CPF, stopping short of accusing me of doing bad things personally, but coming closer and closer to saying that. And at some point last year, when you published this post on 15 May 2014, I consulted my lawyers and it was completely unambiguous and I could not not act.





Blog too low-key to hurt reputation: Ngerng
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 2 Jul 2015

Calling himself an "unsung, part- time blogger", Mr Roy Ngerng yesterday tried to show that his blog, The Heart Truths, had low credibility, reach and visibility.

Hence, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's reputation would have "barely been denigrated" by the post on his blog on May 15 last year.

The article has been found defamatory for suggesting that the Prime Minister had misappropriated Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings.

Mr Ngerng, 34, is arguing that since he harboured no malice, there is no basis for Mr Lee to demand aggravated damages.

Mr Ngerng said his remorse was also evident, pointing out that he had made at least eight apologies, one of which has been on his blog "for 405 days" as of yesterday.

Before he made public the letter of demand from Mr Lee on his blog on May 19 last year, the article had only 9,112 views, Mr Ngerng said. But it drew 93,324 views between May 19 and its removal from the blog two days later.

He also said it was beyond his control if netizens hyperlinked to, or reproduced, his article on their blogs or Facebook pages.

He argued that Mr Lee was unable to provide statistics to show the eventual reach of his defamatory article from second-degree posts, and was just making "inferences".

When Mr Lee said it can be inferred that a Facebook post with one comment would have been read by several others as not everyone would leave a comment, he retorted: "That's like saying if I see one pig, I see several other pigs."

A subsequent video on YouTube on May 24 last year, which Mr Lee said aggravated matters, had dealt only with CPF management and reported on the defamation proceedings, Mr Ngerng said.

He agreed to delete the video when asked to do so. But what he did was to privatise it for five people to access. He took it down only a day later, when asked again.

Then, to draw the attention of local and international media to his case, he said he e-mailed to journalists a link to another site that had earlier reproduced his defamatory article. He also e-mailed them a link to his public apology and the letter of demand on his blog.

Disagreeing that this amounted to republishing the libellous material, he said providing the links "lacks the sting of the allegation".

By drawing attention to his apology, it was in effect a case of "the antidote to the poison (being) directly adjacent to the poison".

Mr Ngerng had made two offers to settle the matter out of court. Mr Lee deemed his $5,000 offer last year as derisory, and another of $10,000 in May as unrealistic in the light of Mr Ngerng's actions.

Mr Ngerng framed the lawsuit as "reckless", given that Mr Lee had a wealth of resources at his disposal to first engage him in a public dialogue.

Mr Ngerng also included in his opening statement letters of support from the International Commission of Jurists in Thailand and the Centre for International Law in the Philippines. He will be cross-examined by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, Mr Lee's lawyer, today.





Roy Ngerng insincere, exploited lawsuit, says PM Lee's lawyer
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 3 Jul 2015

Blogger Roy Ngerng was yesterday accused not only of being insincere in his repeated apologies to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for having defamed him, but also of exploiting the lawsuit to score political points and get more people to read his blog.

Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, in making the point, said Mr Ngerng's motives were evident from his "purely tactical" moves in deliberately and repeatedly perpetuating the libel even after receiving a lawyer's letter of demand to take down the defamatory blog post.

Mr Singh, who is representing Mr Lee, also pointed out that Mr Ngerng, 34, had on repeated occasions tried to mislead Mr Lee, readers of his blog The Heart Truths, and even his own lawyers in his actions, adding: "Every time you get caught, you apologise out of convenience. But you carry on doing what you always intended to do."

His cross-examination of Mr Ngerng went on for six hours on the second day of a three-day High Court hearing. It was to assess the sum of damages the blogger has to pay Mr Lee for defaming him in a May 2014 post that suggested Mr Lee had misappropriated Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings.

Mr Ngerng deleted the libellous post and apologised, but Mr Singh, in arguing for aggravated damages, cited how his actions since then displayed a deep and intense malice towards Mr Lee.

Yesterday's session came a day after Mr Ngerng cross-examined Mr Lee for six hours.

Throughout, Mr Ngerng - who last week discharged his third lawyer for the case so he could defend himself - rebutted Mr Singh's assertions that he was being evasive.

He also taunted Mr Singh, saying he "has not succeeded in teasing the evidence out of my mouth", and warned him against conflating what he said were two separate issues: the defamation suit, and his allegations of government wrongdoing in the management of CPF funds.

Over the course of the day, he challenged the Government to sue him on at least five occasions, if it takes offence at his articles.

Mr Singh began the cross-examination by asking Mr Ngerng for his opinion of Mr Lee. The blogger agreed that Mr Lee is "a man whose integrity is not in doubt", a view that he said he has held at all times.

Mr Ngerng also testified on the "generally low" readership of his blog, which was started in 2012, as people "didn't care" about the CPF issue. But readership spiked after he published Mr Lee's letter of demand in a post titled "I Have Just Been Sued By The Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong". It contained phrases from the defamatory post and links to other sites that had reproduced the article.

While Mr Ngerng said he was petrified and anxious when he got the letter, Mr Singh pointed out that his purported feelings were not in line with his publication of the letter and the tone of his blog post.

The article contained such statements as: "I have tried my best to advocate for my fellow citizens. However, today, I am sued by the very Government which should be protecting its citizens, such as me. This is disappointing."

This, Mr Singh said, showed how Mr Ngerng wanted to "further twist the knife". The article remains online - when the blogger has had the full awareness of its repercussions - speaking volumes of Mr Ngerng's real intentions, he added.

Mr Ngerng also produced a YouTube video, which got nearly 35,000 views, in which he said: "I do not regret what I have done." But he said this was in the context of him speaking on CPF and not defamation. Mr Singh pointed out that while the blogger promised Mr Lee he would delete the video, he instead made it private and shared it with four other people, who he was seeking advice from on its content.

But Mr Ngerng said: "Privatising it is as good as it being removed, because it has been removed from public viewing except myself." The video was eventually removed.

Mr Ngerng added that he had gone above and beyond what he should do in deleting the video and four other articles at Mr Lee's request. He maintained they were not defamatory, saying he complied as he "didn't want to aggravate the hurt and distress and embarrassment the PM would feel".

Yet, to draw the attention of local and international media to his case, he e-mailed more than 70 journalists a link to another site that had reproduced his defamatory article, a link to his public apology and the letter of demand on his blog.

Mr Ngerng said that by including the apology, he had negated the effect of the offensive post.

He also rejected Mr Singh's charge that he was "consumed with a desire to promote" himself. Mr Singh had cited the blogger's marketing background, making him adept at "effective messaging", but Mr Ngerng said he never wanted to be popular. "It is because the PM sued me that I was forced to become the face of CPF. If the Government takes good care of Singaporeans, I will be happy to stop writing, and I will be more than happy to be a waiter or a cleaner," he said.

The hearing resumes today, with Mr Singh continuing his cross-examination of Mr Ngerng.





Did blogger know of implications?
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 3 Jul 2015

Blogger Roy Ngerng yesterday claimed he did not know the meaning of the word "misappropriated" and that it had criminal implications.

But Senior Counsel Davinder Singh pointed out that the blog posts of the 34-year-old showed he knew he was accusing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of criminal mishandling of Central Provident Fund savings.

The blog posts included the defamatory post of May 15 last year that suggested Mr Lee had misappropriated Singaporeans' CPF savings, as Mr Ngerng had likened Mr Lee to City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders, who are being prosecuted for alleged misuse of $50 million in church funds.

The posts showed he was aware of the allegations made against those involved in the CHC case, said Mr Singh, who is representing Mr Lee. Hence, Mr Ngerng must have known the implications that any comparison made in his post would have on Mr Lee's character, Mr Singh argued.

Mr Ngerng had insisted that he used the word only after coming across it in a Channel NewsAsia (CNA) article, and that he did not realise it had criminal implications.

"I understand that (the CNA article) said (the City Harvest Church leaders) misappropriated funds but I didn't understand the definition of misappropriation in the legal sense," he told the court.

Justice Lee, in a summary judgement last November, had found the May 15 blog post defamatory.

In it, Mr Ngerng had replicated a chart in a CNA article, but replaced the image of CHC founder Kong Hee with that of PM Lee, and the images of the other accused CHC leaders with those of prominent people such as Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Temasek Holdings chief executive Ho Ching. Beneath the chart, he wrote: "Meanwhile, something bears an uncanny resemblance to how the money is being misappropriated."

Yesterday, Mr Ngerng insisted he used the chart only because it was "a good way to explain" how the Government invested CPF monies.

He also said he did not understand the gravity of using the word "misappropriated" until he received Mr Singh's letter of demand to take down the defamatory post.

But Mr Singh charged that it would have been clear to Mr Ngerng that the word "misappropriated" - as it appeared in the CNA article and on which he based his blog post - was used in relation to allegations of dishonesty.

"You have agreed that when people are accused of something, there are charges. You have agreed that one of the charges that had been levelled at them was misappropriation. And so would you agree that, from this article, that misappropriation is a crime?"

Said Mr Ngerng: "If you put it this way, then yes."





On the sincerity - or otherwise - of Ngerng's apologies
The Straits Times, 3 Jul 2015

This is an extract of the exchange in the High Court yesterday when Senior Counsel Davinder Singh (DS) was cross-examining blogger Roy Ngerng (RN).

Davinder Singh: I suggest to you, Mr Ngerng, that the word "apology" is completely meaningless to you. Do you agree or disagree?

Roy Ngerng: I do not agree...

DS: Every time you get caught, you apologise for convenience, but you carry on doing what you have always intended to do.

RN: No, that is not true.

DS: We have seen from your conduct, in less than 10 days from the date of the (letter of) demand - May 18 to May 27 - that when you were caught libelling, you apologised. But you continued to post the letter of demand with the offending words. When you were caught with the YouTube video, you apologised, but you privatised it and sent it out to editors. When you were caught with the e-mails, you apologised, and you said it was a momentary lapse of judgment, when today you accept that it wasn't.

RN: Huh? I said it was.

DS: In this court, you have used the word apology so many times that, really Mr Ngerng, it's quite clear that it's purely tactical and completely insincere.

RN: I disagree... As the PM admitted (on Tuesday), the four articles and YouTube video did not mention his name in a defamatory light, nor the allegation. The two e-mails (to the media) also referred to corruption or the Government's use of CPF funds. It was not about Mr Lee's use of CPF funds. In the first e-mail, there is a link... to the re-publication of the offending words and images and for that I have apologised...

The apology remains. As much as I acknowledge the four articles and video are not aggravating and do not repeat the libel, I took them down because I did not want to aggravate the issue.

The e-mails refer to the corruption in the Government. But we panicked because the Government, the PM sent another e-mail and we did not want him to think that we wanted to aggravate the issue. That's why I also sent that letter to apologise.

At no point was the apology less sincere. Because... I do not believe, I mean, there's no way I can prove it, except to say I do not believe Mr Lee has ever misappropriated CPF funds because I do not have evidence of that. I am not going to make any allegation of that... I am telling you here, now, there is still no intent with wanting to say it was Mr Lee who was using our CPF funds...

I would draw the line between the Government's use of CPF funds and what I say about how the Government uses it, with how you want to insinuate that I'm talking about the PM. Because they are two very separate things. Just as how the defamatory suit and the CPF are two very separate things. So please let us keep the line clear because if you keep crossing (it), sometimes I miss it; I admit to something, then I make myself look guilty when I'm actually admitting to something that I should not be admitting.





Defamation case against blogger
Ngerng breaks down in court, claims persecution
Reaction follows suggestions he was being deceitful despite his apologies to PM Lee
By Walter Sim And Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2015

Blogger Roy Ngerng broke down in tears yesterday, declaring he was being persecuted for casting doubts about the management of Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings.

He also claimed he was being silenced by the Government.

Mr Ngerng's emotional reaction in the High Court came as Senior Counsel Davinder Singh suggested he was being deceitful and belligerent in his actions despite his repeated apologies for defaming Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Singh, who is representing Mr Lee, pointed out that Mr Ngerng had - as recently as last month - approached international legal organisations to champion his case and made damaging posts on his blog The Heart Truths.

The blogger had submitted to the High Court statements from the International Commission of Jurists and Centre for International Law Philippines. In doing so, Mr Singh said, Mr Ngerng was trying to imply that "if (the court) were to award high damages it would run afoul of international human rights law, and would be generating an atmosphere of intimidation and is a form of judicial harassment".

The court also heard Mr Ngerng had received £5,000 (S$10,500) from a London-based organisation for the case.

These disclosures were made yesterday, the final day of a three-day hearing to assess the damages the blogger has to pay Mr Lee for defaming him in a May 2014 blog post. It had suggested the Prime Minister had misappropriated CPF savings.

Mr Ngerng, 34, had deleted the libellous post and apologised when he got a lawyer's letter.

But Mr Singh, in arguing for aggravated damages, highlighted how his actions since then had displayed a deep and intense malice towards Mr Lee.

He singled out Mr Ngerng's submission of the statements from the two international organisations, and charged that the blogger had chosen to "use foreign organisations to campaign against Singapore, and to use this court process to advertise that campaign".

Mr Ngerng, choking up and pulling out a wad of tissues, said all he wanted to show was the potential chilling effect the lawsuit had on freedom of speech. Despite a court ruling that he was still allowed to speak on CPF matters, he said: "Let us be honest. We all know that just because I spoke up about the CPF, I am being persecuted."

He also teared up when he said he is depending on his parents after losing his job last year. But he still had access to other funds, Mr Singh said, asking him about the $110,000 raised via crowdfunding, along with the monies from London-based Media Legal Defence Initiative, which gives legal help to journalists and bloggers worldwide.

The blogger is also far from repentant despite his repeated apologies, Mr Singh said, pointing to blog posts last month that cast aspersions on the judiciary, and alleged "abuse of power" by the People's Action Party.

Mr Ngerng insisted his posts were being read out of context, saying he had raised only what he felt were genuine questions about sociopolitical issues in Singapore.

Mr Singh said Mr Ngerng had been lying in a bid to get away with lower damages: "You would say whatever is convenient to get your way, (like) if you had to say sorry, even if (it was) not genuine."

He also argued Mr Ngerng lied in his sworn affidavits, broke his promises to Mr Lee, and tried to suppress the number of views on his blog to create an impression that the defamatory post was not well-read.

Mr Ngerng had said the post "only garnered 9,122 views" when it was taken down. But this, Mr Singh pointed out, failed to account for the views of the article on the blog's home page - where it could be read in its entirety. Readership spiked after Mr Ngerng posted Mr Lee's demand letter on his blog on May 19, 2014 - two days before he apologised and removed the offensive blog post, said Mr Singh. All in, the number of views was about 95,000.

All these showed the blogger has not only "shown no remorse, contrition or sincerity", but also went to court "to give a completely false impression, purely to try to avoid or reduce damages", said Mr Singh.

Justice Lee Seiu Kin asked both parties to make written submissions on their respective cases by Aug 31, with his decision reserved for a later date.





On Ngerng's claims that he was persecuted
The Straits Times, 4 Jul 2015

Extract of an exchange in the High Court yesterday when Senior Counsel Davinder Singh (DS) cross-examined Roy Ngerng (RN):

Davinder Singh: You suggest the plaintiff sued you in retaliation for you raising questions about CPF, correct? ...I'm going to read (from your blog post):"...Very soon I won't be able to speak up anymore." (Did you know) this was false?

Roy Ngerng: I do not think it's false. I'm actually very worried that after today, I'm not able to speak up because I'm not sure what else you will do. That's why I have been rushing to put up a lot of my blog posts in the last one, two months because I'm afraid I might never be able to speak up on my blog anymore. This is something I believe... It doesn't matter if you believe it or not.

DS: But you know that in his judgment, his Honour has held that you can speak up on CPF matters.

RN: Let me be honest...

DS: No, did you or did you not know that ... Yes or no?

RN: Yes, your Honour has, but...

DS: Yes, but despite that...

RN: Let us be honest. (he breaks down) We all know that just because I spoke up about the CPF, I am being persecuted. It is painful when you try to advocate to the Government to be transparent about the CPF and the PM says he has been waiting to sue you...

I have always advocated to the Government and you know it. But you are trying to... say what I said about Government was about the PM. That is not true. It has never been true. I do not hate the PM, and I sincerely apologise to him.

But I believe we need to speak up for the people because otherwise who else will?

The PAP will not take care of the people and that has always been my concern. It is not because I want to defame the PM. I've been sincere and I want to apologise to the PM.

But what I say about the Government and about the CPF is a completely separate thing and that is what my blog has always been about.





Ngerng used funding from foreign groups ‘to pressure High Court’
By Amanda Lee, TODAY, 4 Jul 2015

Blogger Roy Ngerng had received funding from a foreign organisation and used other such groups to apply pressure on the High Court not to award high damages to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the court heard yesterday.

Yesterday was the third and final day of the hearing to assess how much Mr Ngerng has to pay the Prime Minister for suggesting that he had misappropriated monies paid by Singaporeans to the Central Provident Fund.

During his cross-examination of Mr Ngerng, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, who is representing Mr Lee, highlighted the blogger’s sources of funding for the lawsuit. The lawyer noted that the blogger had stated in his affidavit that he had limited financial means.

Mr Ngerng told the court that the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI), a London-based human rights organisation, had given him £5,000 (S$10,500) as well as legal advice.

Mr Singh noted that Mr Ngerng had raised about S$110,000 from the public in June last year.

When asked how the money was spent, the blogger said S$70,000 was used to pay Mr M Ravi, one of the lawyers he had engaged for the case.

He used S$29,000 to pay costs to Mr Lee’s lawyers. Another S$6,000 was used in Mr Ngerng’s failed application for a Queen Counsel to represent him in the assessment of damages hearing.

The blogger had also used his savings to fund his legal costs.

Mr Ngerng said he had visited the MLDI after his trip to Norway, where he spoke at a students’ festival, at the invitation of the University of Trondheim. Another organisation in London, Article 19, had paid for his trip to London.

During the hearing, Mr Singh charged that Mr Ngerng had chosen to introduce briefs from foreign organisations so as to put pressure on the High Court.

In response, Mr Ngerng, who broke down twice during the cross-examination yesterday, said the briefs were intended to support his case, such as its moral considerations.

Mr Singh later said: “You chose to use foreign organisations to campaign against Singapore and to use this court process to advance that campaign.”

When Mr Ngerng questioned the relevance of Mr Singh’s remarks to the case, the Senior Counsel said: “It is about aggravation and about your claim to limited financial needs and the choices you’ve made.”

He later pointed out that Mr Ngerng had introduced briefs from the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in Thailand and the Center for International Law (CenterLaw) in Philippines, in his opening statement.

Mr Singh asked why there was a need to get foreign organisations to come up with such briefs, if Mr Ngerng had been sincere in his apology to Mr Lee.

When Justice Lee Seiu Kin questioned if Mr Singh was implying that Mr Ngerng intended to advance “some political agenda” and was thus not sincere in making the apology, the lawyer replied: “Yes, that’s one of the points.”

Justice Lee later said: “I just want to clarify … I feel absolutely no pressure, but to the extent that the material given by the (ICJ and Centerlaw in assisting Mr Ngerng) in making those points, I will look at it and consider those points.”

The court was yesterday adjourned to Aug 31, and both parties have to hand in their written submissions by then. As Mr Ngerng will be away for the next two weeks for reservist, Justice Lee gave him an additional six weeks after that to make his written submissions.




No comments:

Post a Comment