Thursday 16 February 2012

Blogger erases comment after minister sends lawyer's letter

Alex Au also posts letter from lawyers of Shanmugam
By Tessa Wong, The Straits Times, 15 Feb 2012

CABINET Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday sent a lawyer's letter to well-known blogger Alex Au, asking him to remove from his website allegedly defamatory comments about the minister.

Mr Au did so by last night, saying he took the Foreign Affairs and Law Minister at his word.

In possibly the first legal action here by a politician against online media contributors, Mr Shanmugam's letter to Mr Au yesterday was headlined Defamatory Statements Published On .

The website is his blog address and the comments in question were made by Mr Au last Thursday when he criticised the mainstream media's treatment of opposition MP Yaw Shin Leong and his alleged extramarital affair.

Mr Au said that there had been 'relative silence when it came to allegations swirling around K. Shanmugam and Foo Mee Har at various points in the recent past'.

'That there were rumours is widely known, though as in the Yaw Shin Leong case, no one can point to any proof.'

Mr Yaw is the Workers' Party MP for Hougang while Ms Foo is an MP for West Coast GRC. It is not known if Ms Foo will also commence legal proceedings.

Yesterday, Mr Shanmugam's lawyers from Allen and Gledhill, Senior Counsel Ang Cheng Hock and Mr Tay Yong Seng, said that the comment by Mr Au referred to online allegations made primarily by an anonymous netizen called Scroobal.

'The allegations (by Scroobal) are false and scurrilous,' they wrote in their letter.

They said that Mr Shanmugam had instructed them to try and trace Scroobal in order to sue him.

'But the Internet being what it is, Scroobal has been untraceable so far,' they said in their letter.

'Likewise, others who have repeated the allegations made by Scroobal have so far been untraceable.'

The lawyers also stated in their letter that they have been instructed to commence legal proceedings against 'anyone who makes such allegations against our client'.

Mr Ang later told The Straits Times: 'There are some people who have posted with what appears to be their names. We will be proceeding against them.'

A search on the Internet found at least two posts made on the Sammyboy forum by Scroobal about Mr Shanmugam's personal life.

The first, posted around late 2010, is no longer on Sammyboy.

But it has since been reposted on other websites. The second posting was on Sunday and can still be accessed.

Mr Shanmugam, formerly a senior counsel with Allen and Gledhill, married a clinical psychologist in 2008. It is his second marriage.

Beyond removing his comment, his lawyers also asked Mr Au to publish their letter in full on his website.

Last night, Mr Au did so and posted the letter with the comment: 'I take Shanmugam's word on this matter. I have withdrawn that comment as requested.'

At the end of the letter, he said: 'Needless to say, no comments to this post will be necessary.'

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