Tuesday, 21 February 2012

PM Lee sends lawyer's letter to editors of website




PM Lee sends lawyer's letter to editors of website
By Tessa Wong, The Straits Times, 20 Feb 2012

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday sent a lawyer's letter to the editors of the TR Emeritus (TRE) sociopolitical website, asking for a post alleging cronyism in the appointment of Madam Ho Ching as head of Temasek Holdings to be taken down.

Madam Ho is PM Lee's wife.

He also asked for an apology to be posted on the website by Feb 24, and which must remain on the website for the same number of days as the offending post had been.

In addition, he also wanted the TRE editors to give a written confirmation by Feb 23 that they would comply, failing which he would start legal proceedings against them.

By 10pm last night, the post in question had been taken down.

Mr Richard Wan, the TRE editor to whom the letter was addressed, told The Straits Times last night that he was discussing the matter with other TRE editors, and they would issue a statement by 'around lunch time' today.

One of the editors, he added, is a lawyer who could provide advice on the next steps to take.

Mr Wan himself is a 49-year-old IT consultant who appeared at a public forum on Wednesday last week declaring himself as one of five editors of the website, which is known for views critical of the Government and the ruling party.

Mr Davinder Singh, the Drew & Napier lawyer acting for PM Lee, told The Straits Times yesterday that the letter had been served on Mr Wan in person at his house in Hillview estate.

In his letter, a copy of which he released to The Straits Times, he said that 'as is publicly known', the appointment of Madam Ho as head of Temasek in May 2002 was 'on merit and through proper process'.

He detailed how it was Mr S. Dhanabalan, the chairman of the investment company's board of directors, who first decided that Madam Ho was the right person for the job, and approached Mr Lee in August 2001 to broach the subject.

Mr Lee, who was then Deputy Prime Minister, was uncomfortable with the idea, as was then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

Mr Dhanabalan, however, still felt that Madam Ho was the most suitable person, and in November 2001, raised the subject again with Mr Lee, who again turned it down.

Mr Dhanabalan then came up with a modified proposal: He would reconstitute Temasek's executive committee and chair it himself.

This way, Madam Ho would report to him directly, and not to the prime minister. She would be appointed as executive director instead of chief executive officer.

In his letter, Mr Singh also noted that Madam Ho's appointment to the board of Temasek, which is a company listed in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, had to be approved by the President.

He also pointed to an interview that Mr Dhanabalan gave to the Agence France-Presse news agency in June 2002, in which he said that Madam Ho's appointment had nothing to do with her family connections.

Likewise, Mr Goh told Business Week news magazine later that month that Madam Ho was appointed because of her record and performance.

Mr Singh's letter also requested the TRE editors to provide the identity and contact particulars of 'Matthew Chua', the person who contributed the post in question.

Mr Wan told The Straits Times that Mr Chua was an occasional contributor to TRE whose articles had been published on the website before, but he did not know him personally.

The TRE editors would, however, be able to reach him by e-mail.

This is the second time in five days that legal action is being threatened for comments posted on websites.

On Tuesday last week, Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam got lawyers from Allen & Gledhill to send such a letter to blogger Alex Au, asking him to remove from his blog allegedly defamatory comments about him.

Mr Au did so the same evening.




TRE editor apologises to PM Lee
By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia, 20 Feb 2012

An editor of a socio-political website TR Emeritus (TRE) has apologised to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for a posting which had made certain allegations about the appointment of Ms Ho Ching as the head of Temasek Holdings.

Ms Ho Ching is the wife of PM Lee.

Editor Richard Wan told MediaCorp's TODAY newspaper TRE is very sorry for causing unnecessary duress to the prime minister.

Mr Wan said TRE will comply with all the remedial actions.

Mr Lee's lawyers had asked for an apology to be posted on the website by February 24.

They want the apology to remain on the website for the same number of days the offending article had been there.

TRE's editors must also confirm in writing by February 23 that they would comply with the conditions.

Mr Wan, who is one of five editors behind TRE but who is the only one based here, also told TODAY the post was made by a contributor.

He said he does not know the contributor, "Matthew Chua", personally.

Mr Wan said TRE vets all its articles before publishing them but it is challenging to vet the feedback received each day.

He added the website will be "more careful" before any publication.



Website editors apologise to PM Lee
Post alleging nepotism in appointment of Ho Ching removed
By Tessa Wong, The Straits Times, 23 Feb 2012

SOCIOPOLITICAL website TR Emeritus (TRE) has apologised unreservedly to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for a post that alleged cronyism in the appointment of Madam Ho Ching as head of Temasek Holdings.

TRE admitted that the allegation was false and completely without foundation, in an apology published on its site early yesterday morning.

It comes three days after one of its editors, Mr Richard Wan, was served with a lawyer's letter from Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, who is acting for Mr Lee.

In the letter served on Sunday, Mr Lee asked that the offensive article be removed, and that an apology be posted on the website by tomorrow and which must remain on the website for the same number of days as the offending post had been.

He also wanted the TRE editors to give a written confirmation by today that they would comply, failing which he would start legal proceedings against them.

Yesterday, Mr Lee's press secretary Chen Hwai Liang said in a short statement that PM Lee noted that the article had been removed and that TR Emeritus had apologised. Mr Chen also said that 'PM's lawyers have received a reply from TRE, and are dealing with the matter'.


In the apology published yesterday, TRE editors acknowledged that on or about Feb 16, they had published on the website an article entitled 'PAP government is full of ironies'.

'We recognise that the article meant or was understood to mean that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had secured, or was instrumental in securing, the appointment of his wife, Madam Ho Ching, as the chief executive officer of Temasek Holdings (Private) Limited for nepotistic motives,' they said.

'We admit and acknowledge that this allegation is false and completely without foundation. We unreservedly apologise to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for the distress and embarrassment caused to him by this allegation,' they added.

They also undertook not to make any further allegation to the same or similar effect.

However, in the first version of their letter of apology, TRE actually republished a portion of the offensive article, which its editors had removed from the website on Sunday night.

After Mr Lee's lawyers told them to remove the reposted passage, they did so.

Mr Wan, a 49-year-old IT consultant, also reminded TRE readers to refrain from using language that was defamatory, obscene or discriminatory.

He also advised TRE readers to refrain from making comments about Madam Ho and her appointment to Temasek Holdings, saying that such allegations posted on TRE would be deleted.

TRE also urged readers to report to the editorial team any comments that may be defamatory.

Mr Lee's action against TRE comes a week after lawyers acting for Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam asked blogger Alex Au to remove from his blog allegedly defamatory comments about Mr Shanmugam. Mr Au did so the same evening.

Yesterday, Professor Ang Peng Hwa, director of the Singapore Internet Research Centre, said it was significant that both Mr Lee and Mr Shanmugam chose to send warning letters to the online editors and bloggers in question, instead of suing them from the outset.

'The Government appears to be taking a corrective stance towards the freewheeling nature of the Internet, rather than a punitive approach,' Prof Ang said.

In a blog posting, Dr Cherian George of the Nanyang Technological University observed that Mr Wan had only recently identified himself as the Singapore face of TRE. Before that, all TRE editors chose to operate anonymously.

'Operating openly and transparently tends to make sites more credible. However, working in the open also means that they are no longer immune to the same post-publication legal constraints that restrict mainstream journalists,' Dr George said at his journalism.sg blog.

Mr Ravi Philemon, chief editor of The Online Citizen website, said its editors would continue to guard against defamatory or seditious content appearing on their site.

He added that an editing team, which includes a legally trained person, goes through posts before publishing them.


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