Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Blogger Roy Ngerng found guilty of defaming PM Lee


Blogger pays PM suit costs after stand-off with lawyer
Each blames the other for two missed deadlines on $29k payment
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 7 Feb 2015

AFTER two missed deadlines and a public spat between blogger Roy Ngerng and his lawyer yesterday, Mr Ngerng finally paid the $29,000 in costs he owed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, whom he had defamed.

In several statements that flew back and forth, Mr Ngerng and lawyer M. Ravi blamed each other for the tardiness in payment.



Their exchange was sparked by a statement Mr Ravi sent to the media, declaring that Mr Ngerng has taken the $29,000 and "remains uncontactable".

He added: "Our client Roy Ngerng has not been at all timely in paying the costs of $29,000 even after we refunded him the money urgently at his request."

But Mr Ngerng, in a blow- by-blow account of events, countered that it was Mr Ravi who had returned him the money of his own accord and asked him to make the payment directly to Mr Lee's law firm Drew & Napier.

The amount is for legal fees and related expenses the High Court had ordered Mr Ngerng to pay Mr Lee last month.

It had ruled last November that Mr Ngerng had defamed Mr Lee by suggesting that the Prime Minister had misappropriated Central Provident Fund savings.

Damages to be paid to Mr Lee have yet to be assessed.

In seeking payment of the costs, Mr Lee's lawyers first sent a letter to Mr Ravi for the sum to be paid by Jan 29. When the deadline was missed, another letter was sent on Jan 30 asking for payment to be made by Monday this week, said the Prime Minister's press secretary, Ms Chang Li Lin, in response to media queries yesterday. There were no replies to both letters, she added.

Mr Ngerng said he had handed the money to Mr Ravi on Jan 22, way before the payment was due on Jan 29. But he added that Mr Ravi did not transfer the sum to Drew & Napier by Monday.

"Ravi explained that he is in the midst of setting up his new firm and hasn't been able to process the payment to Drew & Napier yet. He handed me back the money and asked me to make the payment directly to Drew & Napier," Mr Ngerng said.

Mr Ravi, however, told The Straits Times he had returned the money as Mr Ngerng had insisted on "paying in cash" directly to Mr Lee's lawyers, "even though I had told him it was against solicitors' accounts rules".

After getting the money, Mr Ngerng called Drew & Napier on Tuesday to ask to make the payment in cash directly.

Ms Chang noted that "under the lawyers' professional rules, a lawyer cannot, without the consent of the opposite party's lawyer, deal directly with the opposite party". So Mr Lee's lawyers wrote to Mr Ravi the same day to ask if he would have any objections to them being paid directly by Mr Ngerng.

There was no reply to this letter as well, said Ms Chang, which is why Drew & Napier wrote another letter to Mr Ravi to ask that the payment be made by noon next Monday.

Mr Ngerng went to Drew & Napier's offices yesterday evening with the $29,000 in cash.

The firm again wrote to Mr Ravi, but did not get a reply, said Ms Chang.

Later, around 7.30 pm, a representative from Mr Ravi's law firm called Drew & Napier to give approval, and Mr Ngerng handed over the money.






Blogger Roy Ngerng ordered to pay PM Lee $29,000 in costs
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 13 Jan 2015

BLOGGER Roy Ngerng, who was found to have defamed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, was yesterday ordered by the High Court to pay Mr Lee $29,000 in costs.

The sum is for legal fees and related expenses incurred up to the conclusion of the application for summary judgment, said Mr Lee's press secretary, Ms Chang Li Lin.

Damages have yet to be assessed. Ms Chang said the dates for subsequent hearings, which will determine the amount of damages payable to Mr Lee, have not been confirmed.

In a summary judgment last November, Justice Lee Seiu Kin ruled that Mr Ngerng, 33, had defamed Mr Lee by suggesting that the Prime Minister had misappropriated Central Provident Fund savings. A summary judgment means the court makes a ruling without the case going to trial, as it agrees with the applicant that the defence arguments are baseless.

Mr Ngerng had, in a post on his blog, The Heart Truths, on May 15 last year, compared Mr Lee to the City Harvest Church leaders prosecuted for allegedly misusing $50 million of church funds.

Justice Lee noted of that post: "The allegation that 'money is being misappropriated' is unconditional and unequivocal."

The post, he added, implied that Mr Lee was not willing to be transparent about the finances of the Government and its investment arm GIC "because he wants to conceal the evidence of the criminal misappropriation".

Mr Ngerng is represented by lawyer M. Ravi, and Mr Lee, by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh of Drew & Napier.

Ms Chang said Mr Ravi had indicated that Mr Ngerng did not want to be cross-examined at yesterday's hearing, and was directed to confirm if he would be giving evidence by Jan 30.

But Mr Ravi told reporters Mr Ngerng would take the stand, a decision that he said was made after the hearing. Ms Chang said: "PM Lee stands ready to be cross-examined, a position he has earlier communicated to the court."

Mr Ngerng told reporters following yesterday’s three-hour closed-door hearing: “The court has been relatively fair and I’m quite pleased with the outcome.”





PM's press secretary refutes blogger's claim that she lied
Allegation over media statement about hearing 'baseless', she says
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 14 Jan 2015

THE press secretary of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday refuted allegations by blogger Roy Ngerng that she had lied in her media statement on a closed-door hearing on Monday, saying they were "baseless".

Mr Ngerng also accused the media of lying when reporting about the statement by Ms Chang Li Lin.

The hearing was to assess costs in a defamation suit that Mr Lee filed against Mr Ngerng for a post the blogger made in May last year.

Ms Chang said in her statement on Monday that "Mr Ngerng's lawyer indicated at the hearing that Mr Ngerng did not want to be cross-examined".

She added that the judge directed his lawyer to confirm whether he would be giving evidence by Jan 30. Mr Lee stands ready to be cross-examined, she said.

Mr Ngerng, 33, took issue with the statement in a post on his blog later on Monday evening.

It was followed by an exchange between his lawyer M. Ravi and Ms Chang yesterday.

Mr Ravi said in a media statement that Ms Chang's comments were "inaccurate" and that she had been "misinformed".

Responding, Ms Chang said in a statement that "Mr Ravi is wrong, and Mr Ngerng, who was not present during this part of the hearing, has made yet another baseless allegation".

In her five-page media statement, she cited notes taken by law firm Drew & Napier, whose Senior Counsel Davinder Singh is representing Mr Lee, during the High Court hearing.

At the Monday hearing, Justice Lee Seiu Kin ordered Mr Ngerng to pay $29,000 in costs for legal fees and related expenses.

He also directed Mr Ravi to confirm by Jan 30 if Mr Ngerng would be giving evidence.

Justice Lee ruled in a summary judgment in November that Mr Ngerng had defamed Mr Lee by suggesting that the Prime Minister had misappropriated Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings. Damages for defamation will be assessed in later hearings.

Yesterday, Mr Ravi said that, from his recollection, he did not tell the court that Mr Ngerng did not want to be cross-examined.

He also said that it would be "illogical" for the court to ask him to confirm by Jan 30 if Mr Ngerng would give evidence had he already said his client would not.

But Ms Chang, citing the notes by Drew & Napier, said Mr Ravi had made a "hasty U-turn".

She wrote: "Mr Ravi had informed the court that Mr Ngerng would rely on the affidavit filed by him in the earlier summary judgment application as his evidence for the purposes of the assessment of damages.

"Mr Davinder Singh then gave Mr Ravi notice that if Mr Ngerng was going to give evidence... Mr Singh would be cross-examining Mr Ngerng.

"Whereupon Mr Ravi promptly changed his position, and informed the court that Mr Ngerng would 'therefore' not be filing any evidence."

This, she said, was the "clearest indication" Mr Ngerng did not want to be cross-examined.

Ms Chang also addressed Mr Ravi's question about whether it was appropriate for the Prime Minister's press secretary to issue statements on the case, as Mr Lee was suing in his personal capacity.

"He appears to have forgotten that, as the court has found, Mr Ngerng falsely alleged 'the Prime Minister of Singapore… is guilty of criminal misappropriation of the monies paid by Singaporeans to the CPF,'" she said. "It is therefore entirely proper for me to deal with this matter as the Prime Minister's press secretary."



Ms Chang's statement, in full, is as follows:

Yesterday evening, Mr Roy Ngerng said in a blog post that I and the media lied in saying that “Mr Ngerng’s lawyer indicated at the hearing that Mr Ngerng did not want to be cross-examined”.

This morning, Mr M Ravi issued a statement to the media saying that the following statement by me is inaccurate, and that I have been misinformed: “…Mr Ngerng’s lawyer indicated at the hearing that Mr Ngerng did not want to be cross-examined. The judge directed his lawyer to confirm this by 30 January 2015. PM Lee stands ready to be cross-examined, a position he has maintained right from the beginning.”

Mr Ravi is wrong, and Mr Ngerng, who was not present during this part of the hearing, has made yet another baseless allegation.

Mr Ravi said his statement was based on his “recollection”. But my statement was based on contemporaneous notes of the hearing taken by Drew & Napier.

Drew & Napier’s notes show that the following exchange took place in Court yesterday:

Footnote: According to Drew & Napier, the following shorthand was used in the notes: “P” (Plaintiff) is Mr Davinder Singh SC, “MR” is Mr M Ravi, “D” (Defendant) is Mr Roy Ngerng, “J” refers to the Judge, “AEIC” is affidavit of evidence in chief, “aff” is affidavit, “xxing” is cross-examining, “YH” is Your Honour, “wks” is weeks, “app” is application and “PTC” is pre-trial conference. The relevant extracts are attached.

P: Will D be filing aff?

MR: No

P: Is D calling any other witness?

MR: I will be seeking to rely on docs filed by my client in lower

proceedings.

J: Unless they ordered to stand as AEICs, not in evidence

MR: I ask that RN’s affidavit stand as AEIC

J: How many?

MR: 1.
J: Aff he filed in O 14 below to stand as AEIC?
P: I will be xxing if standing as AEIC.
MR: Therefore, I won’t be filing.
Enough YH I won’t be filing
J: I suggest you go through his docs and see if all docs you want to
rely on are there
MR: 2 wks from now?
…………
J: liberty to D to apply within 2 wks, by 31 Jan 2015, leave to submit
AEIC?
…………
J: Might make sense for you to give new aff if only 1-2 docs
P: If D chooses to give AEIC in whatever form, I will be xxing.
J: Until 31 Jan if you have anything you can apply for leave.
…………
MR: If my client decides to file AEIC, does he have to file app?
J: Will be a further PTC.
Write to inform the Registry that D wishes to tender evidence
Write in before 31 Jan. Will schedule PTC for you in Feb to give
necessary leave.
…………
J: Liberty to D to apply to give evidence on or before 31 Jan
Ms Yap tells me 31 Jan is Sat
30 Jan?
MR: Ok

From the notes, it is clear that Mr Ravi had informed the Court that Mr Ngerng would rely on the affidavit filed by him in the earlier summary judgment application as his evidence for the purposes of the assessment of damages. Mr Davinder Singh then gave Mr Ravi notice that if Mr Ngerng was going to give evidence for the purposes of the assessment of damages, Mr Singh would be cross-examining Mr Ngerng. Whereupon Mr Ravi promptly changed his position, and informed the Court that Mr Ngerng would “Therefore” not be filing any evidence.

This was the clearest indication that Mr Ngerng did not want to be crossexamined.

After saying that Mr Ngerng intended to rely on an earlier affidavit as his evidence, Mr Ravi did a hasty U-turn after Mr Singh said that he will cross-examine Mr Ngerng if he gives evidence. Mr Ravi was so determined that Mr Ngerng not be cross-examined that he even said to the Court “Enough Y[our] H[onour] I won’t be filing”.

In his statement, Mr Ravi said that if “the client choses [sic] to give evidence… he will be liable to cross examination. If he does not, he will not”. That explains why Mr Ravi changed his position at the hearing.

As is also clear from the notes, Mr Ravi’s statement that “If my instructions had been that my client did not wish to give evidence and I had indeed conveyed that fact to the Court, it would have been illogical for the learned Judge to have asked me to confirm this by 30 January 2015” is also incorrect. The fact is that after Mr Ravi said that Mr Ngerng would not be giving evidence, and even after he tried to end the discussion, the Court asked Mr Ravi to consider the matter and let the Court and Drew & Napier know by 30 January 2015 if Mr Ngerng would be giving evidence.

My statement that the Prime Minister stood ready to be cross-examined right from the beginning and had previously informed the Court of that position is also correct.

There are two parts to this case.

The first was the application for summary judgment. That application was decided on the basis of affidavit evidence, and the issue of cross-examination did not arise. Judgment was given in favour of the Prime Minister on 7 November 2014.

The second is the assessment of damages where evidence is given on the stand and the witnesses are subject to cross-examination. That process began with the Prime Minister’s application for directions that was filed on 18 November 2014.

At the very first hearing of that application, which took place on 19 December 2014, Mr Singh informed the Court in Mr Ravi’s presence that the Prime Minister will give evidence and that any suggestion that the Prime Minister is not to be cross-examined should be dispelled.

Drew & Napier indicated to the Court and to Mr Ravi on at least two more occasions before yesterday’s hearing that the Prime Minister stands ready to be cross-examined. The first was by a letter dated 22 December 2014 and the second was in submissions which were filed in Court and served on Mr Ravi on 9 January 2015.

Finally, Mr Ravi has asked whether it is appropriate for the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary to issue statements in connection with this case. He appears to have forgotten that, as the Court has found, Mr Ngerng falsely alleged that “the plaintiff, the Prime Minister of Singapore… is guilty of criminal misappropriation of the monies paid by Singaporeans to the CPF”. It is therefore entirely proper for me to deal with this matter as the Prime Minister's Press Secretary.





Blogger Roy Ngerng to testify: Lawyer
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 15 Jan 2015

BLOGGER Roy Ngerng, who was found to have defamed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, will testify at a hearing to assess the amount of damages payable, his lawyer M. Ravi said yesterday.

In a statement to the media, Mr Ravi also denied saying at a closed-door hearing on Monday that his client "did not want to be cross-examined" - a point Mr Lee's press secretary Chang Li Lin had made in a statement to the media on Monday.

His remark drew a rebuttal from Ms Chang, who said: "Despite what Mr Ravi said in court, he has now publicly confirmed that Mr Ngerng is prepared to give evidence and to be cross-examined at the hearing to assess damages." She added: "The Prime Minister looks forward to that."

Yesterday's exchange is the latest development in the continuing saga on what was said at the hearing on Monday when Justice Lee Seiu Kin ordered Mr Ngerng to pay PM Lee $29,000 in costs for legal fees and related expenses, with damages to be assessed later.

At issue is the point Ms Chang made in a media statement on Monday that Mr Ngerng "did not want to be cross-examined''.

This, she said the following day, was indicated in the notes on the hearing taken by law firm Drew & Napier - whose Senior Counsel Davinder Singh is representing Mr Lee.

Yesterday, Mr Ravi, referring to the same notes, said they "seem to me to be accurate, precise and complete as far as they go". But nowhere do they say that his client "did not want to be cross-examined", he added.

Responding, Ms Chang said: "Mr Ravi accepts that the notes are 'accurate, precise and complete'. But in quoting from them, he has carefully and selectively omitted his own words to the Court."

She said he did not cite the fact that he had told Justice Lee: "Therefore, I won't be filing (an affidavit). Enough Your Honour, I won't be filing."

That, she said, was the "clearest admission of his indication to the Court that Mr Ngerng did not want to be cross-examined".

Mr Ravi, however, said he made the remark "to protect my client's right to have the final say (over whether to testify)".

His move followed Mr Singh's statement at the Monday hearing that he would cross-examine Mr Ngerng should he testify at a subsequent hearing to assess damages to the PM.

Mr Ravi also said the notes indicate he would be taking instructions from Mr Ngerng on whether the blogger would be giving evidence.

The hearing dates to assess damages have not been announced.

But Justice Lee had directed Mr Ravi to confirm by Jan 30 if Mr Ngerng would be giving evidence.

Last November, the High Court judge ruled in a summary judgment that Mr Ngerng had defamed PM Lee by suggesting he had misappropriated Central Provident Fund savings.





Blogger Roy Ngerng found to have defamed PM Lee
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 8 Nov 2014

SINGAPORE'S High Court has ruled that blogger Roy Ngerng defamed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who he suggested had misappropriated Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings.

The ruling by Justice Lee Seiu Kin is a first in Singapore on a defamation suit by a political leader over online remarks.

The judge said he could not accept Mr Ngerng's only defence - that the lawsuit was unconstitutional - and he issued a summary judgment against Mr Ngerng, who had wanted the case to go to trial.

The amount of damages which Mr Ngerng needs to pay will be assessed later, the judge said in a 39-page judgment out yesterday.

Meanwhile, Mr Ngerng, 33, cannot republish the allegation of criminal misappropriation, but his freedom of speech will not be curtailed, Justice Lee said.

The defamation suit was sparked by a May 15 blog post, in which Mr Ngerng compared Mr Lee to City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders, who were being prosecuted for allegedly misusing $50 million of church funds.

Mr Ngerng's lawyer M. Ravi had argued that under the Constitution, only Parliament has the power to make laws to restrict a citizen's freedom of speech. But Parliament, he said, had not done so.

And since defamation cases are based on common laws of defamation, these laws no longer apply because Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression.

Justice Lee, however, said that based on previous Court of Appeal decisions, "it is clearly settled law that the right to freedom of speech under Art(icle) 14 of the Constitution is restricted by the law of defamation". He wrote: "Accordingly, I find that there is no triable defence against the plaintiff's case in defamation."

The judge then spelt out why Mr Ngerng's May 15 blog post was defamatory. In the post, Mr Ngerng compared a Channel NewsAsia chart detailing the relationship between CHC leaders with his own chart of the relationships between the CPF, Mr Lee and GIC, among others.

Justice Lee noted that the CHC case was in the public domain on May 15, and "has come to be associated with the criminal misappropriation of funds in the mind of any ordinary, reasonable person".

He also noted that, in Mr Ngerng's post, "the allegation that 'money is being misappropriated' is unconditional and unequivocal".

The post also contains an implicit comparison between the lack of information given to the auditors in the CHC case and the lack of transparency with regard to CPF monies, he added.

This, he said, implies that Mr Lee is not willing to be transparent about the finances of the Government and GIC "because he wants to conceal the evidence of the criminal misappropriation".

Mr Ngerng had said the post, read as a whole, was not defamatory.

While the judge agreed it must be examined as a whole, the rest of the post is "consistent with the finding that the disputed words and images convey the meaning that the plaintiff is guilty of criminal misappropriation".

On Mr Ngerng's claim he did not intend to accuse Mr Lee of criminal misappropriation, the judge said intended meaning is irrelevant.


Last night, Mr Ngerng said on his blog he was disappointed with the ruling, and he will continue speaking on the CPF.




What happened

MAY 15: Mr Roy Ngerng, 33, publishes a blog post that alleged Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong misappropriated CPF savings.

MAY 18: Mr Ngerng gets a lawyer's letter from Mr Lee which asked, among other things, that he take the post down immediately, apologise and make a written offer of damages and costs. He takes the post down the next day.

MAY 23: Mr Ngerng apologises. He asks for damages to be dropped, but Mr Lee refuses.

MAY 27: Mr Lee turns down Mr Ngerng's $5,000 offer of damages, calling it derisory after Mr Ngerng failed to keep his promise to take down a YouTube video and blog posts making the same claims. Mr Ngerng instead changed the video setting to a private one and sent two e-mails to local and international media republishing the blog posts.

MAY 29: Mr Lee sues Mr Ngerng for defamation.

JULY 10: Mr Lee applies to the High Court for summary judgment, asking it to rule in his favour without going through a trial.





PM's lawyers refute blogger's claim
They argue blog post not about govt transparency, used sensational words
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 19 Sep 2014

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong's lawyers yesterday refuted Mr Roy Ngerng's claim that his blog post was about government transparency and accountability, not about the unlawful misappropriation of Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings.

This was among a list of arguments they submitted during a closed-door hearing before High Court Judge Lee Seiu Kin on Mr Lee's application for a summary judgment on the defamation case against Mr Ngerng, without going for a full trial.

In written submissions of more than 100 pages, his lawyers sought to show that the 33-year-old blogger had defamed Mr Lee by using "the device of association with a group of persons who in Singapore have come to be associated with criminal misappropriation and buttressing it with sensational words like 'dishonest' and 'misappropriation' in the context of the... alleged use of CPF monies".

In the May 15 blog post, he had compared Mr Lee to City Harvest Church leaders, who are being prosecuted for allegedly misusing $50 million of church funds.

He compared a Channel NewsAsia chart detailing the relationship among the church leaders involved in the criminal case to another chart that he had created. His chart sets out the relationships among the CPF, Mr Lee, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Temasek Holdings, GIC and other Singapore companies.

Mr Ngerng's lawyer, Mr M. Ravi, had argued that the blog post, when read in its entirety, did not convey the meaning set out by Mr Lee's lawyers.

Mr Ravi, in submissions of about 70 pages, said the allegation in the charts was not against Mr Lee but against the Singapore Government, which "enriches itself and its reserves by only returning a portion of the profits made by GIC and Temasek to CPF account holders and retaining the rest of the profits to grow its portfolio of investments into two of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world".

He added that this retention of gains from investing the CPF funds is "legal". But it is "simply not fair to Singaporeans".

Mr Lee's lawyers from Drew & Napier, however, said the alternative meanings were "an afterthought" formulated to advance Mr Ngerng's political agenda.

"He needed a peg on which he can hang his political arguments. That is the explanation for his contrived meanings," they said, adding that Mr Ngerng himself knew he had no defence.

Also, they added, Mr Ngerng had admitted to defaming Mr Lee in an apology posted on his blog and in several lawyer's letters, and had made no attempt to "explain away any of these admissions".

They urged the court to give the "greatest weight" to these admissions in making its decision.

Responding, Mr Ravi said the admissions could not be used to obtain a summary judgment. The reason is that despite the apology for the blog post, Mr Ngerng had not "compromised or settled the action" by paying damages to Mr Lee.

The two sides also crossed swords on the issue of whether the common laws for defamation are unconstitutional.

Mr Ravi, arguing that it is unconstitutional, urged the judge to let the case be heard in open court, "given the constitutional right at stake".

He said that under the Constitution, only Parliament has the power to make laws to restrict a citizen's freedom of speech. But Parliament had not done so, he added.

Defamation cases are currently based on common laws of defamation, These laws, he argued, no longer apply, given that Article 14 of Singapore's Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression.

He added that the Defamation Act, enacted by Singapore's Parliament, has no provision for a person to sue for defamation.

Mr Lee's lawyers, citing judgments made in earlier cases, pointed out that the common laws of defamation are, in fact, constitutional.

They added that Mr Ravi had "missed the point" in his claims about the Defamation Act, and that the Act would have been "meaningless" if people could not sue for defamation.

The PM's lawyers also argued that since there were no legal issues that were "triable", a summary judgment would help all parties involved save on time and costs.

Earlier, Justice Lee granted Mr Ravi's request for Mr Ngerng to attend the closed-door session that lasted for three hours.

The blogger was accompanied to the High Court by his father, mother and older sister. The older Mr Ngerng said that, like any parent, he is worried about his son. "I hope this thing ends well."

Justice Lee will give his decision at a later date that was not specified.





PM Lee responds to blogger's affidavit
PM says Roy Ngerng's arguments 'inadmissible', 'abuse of process of court'
By Tham Yuen-C, the Straits Times, 30 Aug 2014

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong's defamation suit against blogger Roy Ngerng has entered a new round, with Mr Lee responding to Mr Ngerng's bid to get the High Court to turn down his application for damages without the case going for a full trial.

In a statement filed in court on Aug 21, Mr Lee dismissed most of the reasons Mr Ngerng gave for an open trial.

He said the arguments the 33-year-old made are "inadmissible, irrelevant, and an abuse of the process of the court", adding that they were designed to advance Mr Ngerng's political agenda.

Also, the arguments "have no place in an affidavit", he said.

The Prime Minister had sued Mr Ngerng on May 29 for defamation over his May 15 blog post, which alleged the misappropriation of Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies.

In the post, the blogger made a comparison between City Harvest Church leaders prosecuted for allegedly misusing $50 million of church funds and what Mr Lee had allegedly done to CPF funds.

On July 10, Mr Lee applied to the High Court for a summary judgment, a process in which a plaintiff asks the court to rule in his favour without a trial. He said Mr Ngerng did not have a defence.

But in an Aug 4 affidavit, Mr Ngerng argued he had a defence.

He said the Prime Minister's lawyers had misunderstood his blog post when they took it to mean he was saying Mr Lee had misappropriated CPF funds.

All he was doing, he said, was to ask for government transparency and accountability in the handling of CPF monies.

He also produced past official statements to back his arguments that the Government had changed its position on how CPF monies are invested after he wrote his blog post.

These issues, he said, require thorough examination and should be "dealt with rigorously and held accountable to Singaporeans".

Responding, Mr Lee said his lawyers had advised him not to "dignify" Mr Ngerng's "abuse of the process of this court by responding to matters which are inadmissible and irrelevant to the application".

Hence, he addressed only one "factual matter", which was about two other blog posts on CPF that Mr Ngerng had been asked to remove.

The posts were written in 2012 and last year. Mr Ngerng said these posts made no mention of Mr Lee.

But, Mr Lee said Mr Ngerng was "well aware" of the reason he was asked to remove the posts. This was clearly explained in letters exchanged by their lawyers in May, he added.

The two posts were among some that Mr Ngerng sent out as part of an e-mail alerting the media of his case. This was after he had apologised over his initial May 15 blog post.

Mr Lee, in his latest response, also noted that Mr Ngerng's Aug 4 affidavit was filed three days after the Aug 1 deadline.

He said Mr Ngerng's lawyer, Mr M. Ravi, had informed his lawyers, Drew and Napier, of the delay and they, in turn, had asked Mr Ravi to ask the court for an extension of the deadline.

The hearing to decide if Mr Lee should be granted summary judgment has been set for Sept 18 before a High Court judge.





Blogger suit: Hearing on summary judgment plea in Sept
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 18 Jul 2014

THE hearing to decide if Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong should be granted summary judgment in his defamation suit against blogger Roy Ngerng has been set for Sept 18 before a High Court judge.

It is to decide if Mr Lee should be awarded damages without the need for a full-blown trial.

The full-day hearing will be presided over by a High Court judge, rather than a registrar as is normally the case, Mr Ngerng's lawyer M. Ravi told reporters after yesterday's pre-trial conference. This, said Mr Ravi, is because "both halves have indicated they will appeal" if the court rules against them.

Mr Ngerng, 33, is being sued for a May 15 blog post alleging that PM Lee "criminally misappropriated" Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings.

A timeline was also laid out during the pre-trial conference. Mr Ngerng's affidavit in reply to the request for summary judgment must be filed by Aug 1. If Mr Lee has a reply, he must submit it by Aug 22. Both sides then file and exchange their arguments on Sept 4, and then on Sept 11, exchange their replies.

Mr Lee applied to the High Court for summary judgment last Thursday.

Yesterday, Mr Ngerng posted on his blog the 28-page affidavit Mr Lee had submitted then to support his application for summary judgment.

"The Defendant has defamed me and I have been advised by my solicitors and verily believe that there is no defence to my claim," wrote Mr Lee.

The only issue that remains, he said, is damages.

In response to media queries, Mr Lee's press secretary Chang Li Lin said yesterday that Mr Ngerng had admitted to falsely defaming the Prime Minister. As the legal process has commenced, the courts will decide on the matter, she said.

Mr Ravi had last week told the media that he would be making "submissions to vigorously resist (Mr Lee's) application for summary judgment".

The Singapore Mediation Centre has, as a standard procedure, sent a letter to both parties inviting them to resolve the matter amicably.

Mr Ravi said yesterday: "I don't think either of us is interested."

Mr Ngerng, who was waiting outside the chambers in the Supreme Court yesterday, said: "I will continue writing about CPF in the meantime, and (Mr Ravi and I) will fight against summary judgment, to have a full-blown trial."

He is now working part-time at his father's carrot cake stall in Ang Mo Kio. Last month, he was fired from his job as patient coordinator at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.





Blogger suit: PM seeks judgment in his favour without trial
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 12 Jul 2014

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong has applied to the High Court to rule in his favour in his defamation suit against blogger Roy Ngerng, without going through a trial.

The application for summary judgment was released to the media yesterday by Mr Ngerng's lawyer, Mr M. Ravi.

PM Lee's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, argued in the application that Mr Ngerng, 33, has "no defence" against the claim of defamation.

Mr Singh said: "The defendant has no defence to the plaintiff's claims and the only issue to be determined is damages."

He asked the court to decide how much damages Mr Lee should receive, and asked for a ban on the continued publication or dissemination of the offending blog post and "other allegation to the same effect".

In a May 15 blog post, Mr Ngerng alleged that Mr Lee had misappropriated the Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings of Singaporeans.

The blogger had compared a Channel NewsAsia chart detailing the relationship between City Harvest Church leaders, prosecuted for misusing about $50 million in church funds, to another chart he had created.

His chart set out the relationships between the CPF Board, Mr Lee, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Temasek Holdings, GIC and other Singapore companies.

He later removed the post and apologised for it, after receiving a letter from Mr Lee's lawyer, but demurred on the issue of damages. He then offered to pay Mr Lee $5,000, which Mr Singh had said was derisory.

Mr Ngerng also followed up his first blog post with a few other posts and videos on the same topic.

Mr Ravi told the media that he would be making "submissions to vigorously resist the Prime Minister's application for summary judgment".

A summary judgment is a procedure whereby a plaintiff claims the defendant has no case and seeks judgment in his favour without a trial.

Mr Ngerng, in a defence filed in court last month, said he never intended to accuse Mr Lee of misappropriating CPF savings.

He also said the key concerns raised in his blog post, which is at the centre of the suit, were the lack of transparency with which CPF funds are managed and the question of interest on these savings, among other things.

A hearing has been scheduled for Sept 18 for the court to decide if it would grant a summary judgment.

Meanwhile, the case will proceed with a pre-trial conference next Thursday (17 Jul).





PM responds to request for more details in blogger suit
Roy Ngerng's lawyer files amended defence papers in court
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 28 Jun 2014

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong has responded to blogger Roy Ngerng's request for more details to support Mr Lee's claim for aggravated damages.

The answers, given to the 33-year-old on Wednesday, were released to the media yesterday.

Mr Ngerng, who is being sued for defamation after alleging Mr Lee had criminally misappropriated Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings, had asked for more information last week on some points in Mr Lee's statement of claim.

In the May 29 statement of claim, Mr Lee's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, listed nine reasons entitling the Prime Minister to aggravated damages.

One of the four requests concerned malice on Mr Ngerng's part. Mr Singh responded that Mr Ngerng had published the allegation against Mr Lee in his May 15 blogpost "not caring whether they were true or false".

And although Mr Ngerng had apologised to Mr Lee last month, admitting the libel was "false and completely without foundation", and that there was no truth in the criminal misappropriation allegation, he continued to allege the libels were true and continued to republish them, intending to injure Mr Lee and to wound his reputation, said Mr Singh.

Another request centred on Mr Singh's description of Mr Ngerng's "calculated and cynical conduct to use the occasion of his libels to promote himself and cause further distress and injury" to Mr Lee. Replying, Mr Singh said it had always been Mr Ngerng's intention to "opportunistically use" Mr Lee's demands to raise his own public profile, garner support and sympathy, and renew his attack on Mr Lee.

In a May 24 video, Mr Ngerng said he was "right" to make the allegation and did not regret it, said Mr Singh. A blogpost on the same day said his apology was for a mere "perceived suggestion" of misappropriation.

He had also republished the "false and malicious" comparison between City Harvest Church leaders prosecuted for allegedly misusing church funds and what Mr Lee had allegedly done to CPF funds, said Mr Singh.

Mr Ngerng was asked to remove the video and blogpost, and two other blogposts from 2012 and 2013. He agreed, but instead of removing the video, made it private so it could still be seen by "a select group of people". On May 26, he sent e-mails to members of the media, republishing these posts and video.

Mr Singh said Mr Ngerng's lawyer, Mr M. Ravi, had in a May 28 letter "falsely claimed" Mr Lee was seeking to prevent Mr Ngerng from expressing his views on the CPF, or exercising his constitutional rights.

This "disingenuous suggestion" was made in a letter Mr Ngerng intended to make public "to bolster his standing and in aid of his continuing public campaign" against Mr Lee, he said, and was uploaded onto his blog the same day.

Two other requests were already covered in Mr Singh's earlier letters on May 26, 27 and 29.

Yesterday, Mr Ravi filed in court amended defence papers saying that under the Constitution, Mr Lee has no cause of action against Mr Ngerng. The pre-trial conference is set for next Friday.





PM Lee suing blogger over CPF claims
First case here of defamation suit by political leader over online remarks
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 30 May 2014

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong is suing Mr Roy Ngerng for defamation for alleging in a May 15 blogpost that Mr Lee criminally misappropriated Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings.

It is the first case in Singapore of a blogger being taken to court by a political leader over online defamatory comments.

The legal papers were filed in the High Court yesterday and served on Mr Ngerng's lawyer, Mr M. Ravi, who confirmed he had received them.

In the blogpost, Mr Ngerng compared a Channel NewsAsia chart detailing the relationship among City Harvest Church leaders, prosecuted for allegedly misusing about $50 million in church funds, to a chart he had created.

His chart set out the relationships among the CPF, Mr Lee, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Temasek Holdings, GIC and other Singapore companies.

The post can be understood to mean the PM, who is also chairman of state investment firm GIC, is guilty of criminal misappropriation of CPF savings, Mr Lee's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, had said.

Yesterday, Mr Singh also sent Mr Ravi a separate letter that responded to his point about Mr Ngerng's constitutional right to continue writing on CPF.

Mr Singh pointed out that PM Lee "has never once said" the 33-year-old blogger is to remove his posts, including those on CPF, other than those specifically identified in Mr Lee's legal letters. Mr Ngerng knows this, Mr Singh added.

Despite that, Mr Ngerng has "sought to give the false impression that our client is seeking to prevent him from expressing his views on the CPF or from exercising his constitutional rights", said the Senior Counsel.

"That disingenuous suggestion was made in a letter which your client intended to make public, to bolster his standing and in aid of his continuing public campaign against our client," wrote Mr Singh.

Calling it "malicious conduct", he said Mr Lee will ask the court to consider it when assessing aggravated damages.

Mr Ngerng uploaded Mr Ravi's letter on his blog The Heart Truths on Wednesday in a post titled "I Will Continue To Speak Up On Singaporeans' CPF To Protect Us".

Earlier that day, Mr Ravi wrote to Mr Singh, saying Mr Ngerng's written undertaking not to "aggravate the injury and distress" to Mr Lee through "similar other posts" should not forbid him from writing about CPF.

He added that any attempt to curtail the "right to his freedom of expression" on CPF would go against Singapore's Constitution.

The written exchanges between the lawyers were sparked by the May 15 blogpost.

The court papers filed yesterday pointed out that the words and images in the offending post are "calculated to disparage" Mr Lee in his office as Prime Minister and chairman of GIC.

Mr Lee is claiming damages, an injunction to stop Mr Ngerng further defaming him, and costs.

On Tuesday, he turned down the blogger's offer of $5,000 as damages, calling it "derisory".

This came after Mr Ngerng failed to remove a YouTube video and sent e-mails to local and international media, among others, on Monday, republishing posts he had promised to take down.

He took down his original post after getting a lawyer's letter on May 18. He also later apologised. But he subsequently uploaded the offending video and blogposts.

A pre-trial conference has been set for July 4.






Tan Tock Seng Hospital dismisses blogger Ngerng
It cites conduct, misuse of work time as factors
By Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2014

BLOGGER Roy Ngerng, who is being sued by the Prime Minister for defamation, was yesterday fired with immediate effect by his employer, Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).

The hospital said it was terminating his contract because of "conduct incompatible with the values and standards expected of employees, and for misusing working time, hospital computers and facilities for personal pursuits".

In statements he put out online, Mr Ngerng first said he respected the hospital's decision, but later said he felt his sacking was politically motivated.

The 33-year-old, who runs the Heart Truths site, is being sued for defamation by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for alleging that the PM had criminally misappropriated Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies.

TTSH said Mr Ngerng had been employed on a yearly contract for the last two years as a patient coordinator at its Communicable Disease Centre.

Explaining what led to his dismissal, it said his supervisors had found him "misusing TTSH time and resources to pursue personal and non-job-related interests".

"In May this year, TTSH issued him a formal letter warning him of his misconduct when his contract was up for renewal, but decided to give him a chance and renewed his contract," it said.

"However, Mr Ngerng disregarded the warning and continued to misuse company time and resources to access non-job-related social media sites to pursue his personal interests."

His recent public actions and conduct also caused the hospital "grave concern", it said, citing the defamation suit.

The suit arises from a May 15 blog post. He was asked to remove it immediately, apologise, and give a written offer of damages and costs. Mr Ngerng took down the post and apologised.

Subsequently, Mr Lee's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, accused Mr Ngerng of repeating the libel via a video, other blog posts and e-mail. Mr Lee rejected Mr Ngerng's offer of $5,000 as damages and began legal proceedings against him on May 29.

Yesterday, TTSH noted that Mr Ngerng had publicly admitted to the defamation and that it was without basis. "While our staff are free to pursue their personal interests outside work, they must conduct themselves properly, honourably and with integrity.

"In particular, they cannot defame someone else without basis, which essentially means knowingly stating a falsehood to the public," it added.

TTSH said his "neglect of duty" and "improper public conduct" compromised his work performance and were contrary to the high standard of integrity required of employees. His disregard of the hospital's warnings and advice made his continued employment "untenable", it said. He will receive one month's salary in lieu of notice.

The Health Ministry issued a statement to say it supported TTSH's decision as Mr Ngerng's actions "show a lack of integrity and are incompatible with the values and standards of behaviour expected of hospital employees".

Mr Ngerng went on Facebook to say he had been fired. In his first post, he said: "The stress of the court case has made it difficult for me to concentrate on my job. And my advocacy on the CPF has also taken a (toll) on my ability to do my job."

While proud of what he achieved at work, he said he "could have done a lot better" in recent months, adding: "My supervisors have been patient but they also have a responsibility to uphold and I respect that."

But in a later post, he said: "I had wanted to give my employers the benefit of the doubt, but the truth of the matter is that the sacking is politically motivated."

He told The Straits Times that both his statements applied - he respected TTSH's decision, but upon thinking it through, he also felt it was politically motivated.

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Erman Tan said companies have to decide whether an employee's behaviour tarnishes the corporate image or hurts the organisation's value system. He said TTSH is making a stand that employees should not use work time to pursue other aims like politics or misuse its public resources for personal gain.

But sociologist Tan Ern Ser said Mr Ngerng's supporters will likely agree that his dismissal was politically motivated. "Some others may see a correlation between the defamation saga and the sacking and think of it as not purely coincidental," he added.

As of last Friday, Mr Ngerng had raised more than $91,000 through crowd-funding for his legal defence.





Blogger's lawyer criticises TTSH and MOH statements
But TTSH stands by its statement, says there is 'nothing improper'
By Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 12 Jun 2014

A DAY after blogger Roy Ngerng was fired by his employer Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), his lawyer has written to the hospital and the Ministry of Health (MOH) to criticise them for their public statements on his dismissal that touched on the defamation suit involving Mr Ngerng.

Mr M. Ravi said the suit, which is filed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong against Mr Ngerng for alleging that Mr Lee criminally misappropriated Central Provident Fund monies, is still before the courts and "its outcome remains a matter for the courts to determine".

Therefore commenting on it would be sub judice, he said.

But in a statement last night, TTSH stood by what it had said on Tuesday, saying there was "nothing improper" in its statement as Mr Ngerng had publicly admitted to posting the defamatory article online .

The blogger had acknowledged that his allegation was "false and completely without foundation". He had also apologised and taken down the article.

In his letter to TTSH and MOH yesterday, Mr Ravi referred to the hospital's statement on Tuesday in which it cited the defamation as one basis for terminating Mr Ngerng's employment as a patient coordinator at the Communicable Disease Centre.

He expressed regret that MOH, which he said was not a party to the employment contract between Mr Ngerng and TTSH, had issued a statement supporting the hospital's decision.

"It would seem appropriate to request that restraint be exercised in relation to issuing public statements about decisions and inferences in relation to matters that are intricately connected to the subject matter of the litigation," said Mr Ravi in his letter, which was sent to the media.

"Neither TTSH nor the Ministry of Health are parties to the civil litigation, whose final determination awaits the judgment of the Courts," he added.

He said that the law of defamation is complex and may entail matters such as the analysis of technical issues arising from proceedings following apology, assessing the amount of damages and issues that may lead to an appeal.

On Tuesday, the hospital said it was terminating Mr Ngerng's contract for conduct "incompatible with the values and standards expected of employees" and for "misusing working time, hospital computers and facilities for personal pursuits" despite receiving a warning letter.

It cited Mr Ngerng's May 15 blog post, which had triggered the defamation suit, and that he had publicly admitted to the defamation, and that his allegation was without basis.

Employees must conduct themselves properly, honourably and with integrity, it said, adding: "In particular, they cannot defame someone else without basis, which essentially means knowingly stating a falsehood to the public."

MOH also issued a statement that day supporting TTSH's decision. It said that Mr Ngerng's "actions show a lack of integrity and are incompatible with the values and standards of behaviour expected of hospital employees".

Mr Ngerng posted two separate statements online on Tuesday. In the first post, he said that he respected the hospital's decision, as the stress of the law suit and his advocacy on CPF issues had taken a toll on his ability to do his job.

In his second post, he said he had wanted to give his employer the benefit of the doubt but he felt the move was politically motivated.





* Bus-stop CPF graffiti culprit jailed 4 weeks
By Elena Chong, The Straits Times, 24 Jun 2014

A 71-YEAR-OLD who defaced more than a dozen bus-stop advertisement boards last month, by penning messages in apparent support of blogger Roy Ngerng, was sentenced to four weeks' jail yesterday.

Loh Thiam Hock, who is unemployed, had used a black marker to write "We support CPF Blogger, Return our CPF Money" on the advertisement boards.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lai Yi Shin said that a day before Loh went on a defacement spree, he had read a newspaper article relating to the Central Provident Fund (CPF).



The article said blogger Ngerng had removed a blog post accusing the Government of "misappropriating" CPF funds, a day after he was asked to do so by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's lawyer.

Loh, who originally faced vandalism charges, pleaded guilty to five of 19 amended charges of mischief.

Over three hours on May 22 from 2.35pm, he struck at bus stops in the River Valley and Hill Street areas.

He scribbled the words on bus stops in Clemenceau Avenue, River Valley Road, and Hill Street outside and opposite the Ministry of Communications and Information Building, as well as on a transformer box at the junction of Hill Street and North Boat Quay.

DPP Lai, who sought a one- to three-month jail sentence, highlighted four aggravating factors to Community Court judge Lim Keng Yeow.

He said the acts of mischief were numerous and committed in close proximity to the Central Business District, where there was high pedestrian traffic.

The acts were committed on multiple surfaces at various locations - on stone chairs, bus boards, walkway parapets and even a transformer box.

He also said such acts were hard to detect.

Defending himself in court yesterday, Loh pleaded for leniency, noting that he had been in remand since May 29.

Speaking in Hokkien through an interpreter, Loh, who said that he had been picking up cans as a rag-and-bone man, promised not to commit such offences again.

He also told the court that he had no home to go to since his release from prison in 2003 for causing grievous hurt.

But DPP Lai said Loh could look for counsellors when he was in prison, and if he had problems in his daily life, he could approach family service centres when he was released from prison.

Judge Lim told Loh that whatever he might have wanted to express, he had many lawful ways to make his point.

"It is clearly unacceptable to express your views by unlawful means,'' he said.

He backdated Loh's sentence to May 29.

For the offences related to the bus-stop advertisement boards, Loh could have been jailed for up to one year and/or fined on each charge.





Man, 71, charged over CPF graffiti
By Ian Poh, The Straits Times, 30 May 2014

A 71-YEAR-OLD man who allegedly defaced bus stops with messages in apparent support of blogger Roy Ngerng was charged with vandalism yesterday.

Loh Thiam Hock allegedly wrote phrases such as "We support CPF Blogger", "Return our CPF Money" and "Above 65 years Bal $5000 in M/AC" with a black marker on the advertisement boards of six bus stops around the Clarke Quay area on Thursday last week.

The messages appeared to back Mr Ngerng, 33, who in a May 15 blog post alleged that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had misappropriated CPF savings.

Yesterday, Mr Lee commenced legal proceedings on a defamation suit against the health-care worker. A writ of summons was sent by his lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, to Mr Ngerng's lawyer M. Ravi yesterday.

Loh was arrested on Tuesday after police looked through closed-circuit television footage. He faces six counts of vandalism.

The slim and bespectacled man was remanded in the Institute of Mental Health for psychiatric evaluation and will next appear in court on June 12.

He could be jailed for up to three years or fined up to $2,000 for each of the charges, if convicted.

However, as Loh is above 50, he will not be caned if convicted.

In an unrelated act of vandalism a few weeks ago, profanities directed at the ruling party and the police were spray-painted on the rooftop of a Toa Payoh Housing Board block.

Five teens were arrested and charged over their involvement in that incident.

A train at SMRT's Bishan depot was also reportedly defaced on May 5.






Blogger wants to keep writing on CPF
His lawyer says written undertaking to PM shouldn't curtail right to do so
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 29 May 2014

BLOGGER Roy Ngerng, accused of libel for a blog post that alleges Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has misappropriated Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings, wants to continue to write on the national pension scheme.

His lawyer M. Ravi said yesterday in a letter to Mr Lee's lawyer that Mr Ngerng's written undertaking not to "aggravate the injury and distress" to the Prime Minister through "similar other posts", should not forbid him from writing about the CPF.

Said Mr Ravi: "For the avoidance of doubt, 'similar other posts' should not be construed as a curtailment of our client's right to his freedom of expression to write or engage the public on the CPF issue and raise any matters relating to CPF that requires transparency and accountability to the public".

He gave this response to a point made in a letter on Monday from Mr Lee's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh.

The letter called for Mr Ngerng, 33, a health-care worker, to undertake in writing that "he will not further aggravate the injury and distress to our client through similar other posts, videos or other means" or face aggravated damages.

Mr Ravi, in making his point, also said any attempt to curtail Mr Ngerng's freedom of expression would go against Article 14 of Singapore's Constitution, "especially since these other posts do not refer directly" to Mr Lee.

He referred to Article 23 of the Asean Human Rights Charter as well. He further argued that Mr Ngerng's call for open dialogue on the CPF issue is in line with recent parliamentary exchanges emphasising the importance of robust debate.

Mr Ravi, in reply to another letter from Mr Singh on Tuesday, said he has instructions to accept legal letters on the matter on behalf of Mr Ngerng.

His response is the latest development in a saga that started with an allegedly libellous May 15 post by Mr Ngerng on his blog The Heart Truths. Yesterday, he posted on it an article titled: "I Will Continue To Speak Up On Singaporeans' CPF To Protect Us".

In the past few days, there had been many twists and turns to the saga as Mr Ngerng removed the May 15 post, apologised and promised not to make the same allegations. But he then uploaded a YouTube video and blog posts republishing the offending comparison between CPF savings and church funds allegedly misused by City Harvest Church leaders.

After he agreed to remove the posts and video or face aggravated damages, he sent e-mail to international and local media, among others, republishing the offending posts and video.

And instead of removing the video, he made it private for a select group of people.

He has since offered $5,000 as damages to Mr Lee, who has rejected it.

A court, in awarding general damages for defamation, traditionally considers such factors as the gravity of the allegation, its effect on the plaintiff's reputation, and the defendant's conduct from the time the defamation is published to the time of the verdict.

But for aggravated damages, the factors the court will look at include those that would tend to worsen the harm to reputation like the improper or irregular conduct of the defendant in connection with the publication of the defamation.

Typically, the ability to pay is not considered.





CPF Blogger 'has misled PM Lee a second time'
Offer of $5,000 damages derisory, disregards gravity of conduct: Lawyer
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 28 May 2014

BLOGGER Roy Ngerng has "misled" Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the public a second time and "further aggravated the injury and distress" to Mr Lee by continuing to allege the Prime Minister had misappropriated Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings, said Mr Lee's lawyer yesterday.

He did so by failing to remove, as promised, a YouTube video on the same subject and sending two e-mails that republish blog posts with the same claims, which he was to have taken down on Monday.

Mr Ngerng therefore "only has himself to blame" for losing the opportunity to not pay aggravated damages, said Senior Counsel Davinder Singh.



He added that the blogger's $5,000 offer of damages made yesterday afternoon is "derisory and completely disregards the gravity of your client's conduct, the undisputed fact that the libel is false and malicious and your client's calculated and systematic aggravation of the injury and distress to our client".

The points were made by Mr Singh in two letters sent yesterday to Mr Ngerng's lawyer M. Ravi. The Senior Counsel said the first time the 33-year-old misled the Prime Minister and the public was when he apologised for a May 15 post alleging that CPF savings had been misappropriated.

The health-care worker also gave a written undertaking to remove the post and all links to it, and to not make further allegations to the same effect. But Mr Ngerng had "no intention of honouring them", Mr Singh wrote in his first letter yesterday.

The blogger had also promised on Monday to remove a video.

He did not. Instead, he made it private, a move that "continues to make it available to a select group of people", said Mr Singh.

The Senior Counsel also said that when Mr Lee agreed on Monday to Mr Ngerng's request for an extension of the deadline to make a written offer of damages and costs, it was based on a promise the blogger had made.

The promise was that he would take down the video and four blog posts by 5pm on Monday, and that he would not "further aggravate the injury and distress" to Mr Lee through similar other posts, video or other means.

But after Mr Lee agreed to the extension, "we learnt of two e-mails which appear to have been sent by your client", Mr Singh wrote, adding that one was to many people, including local and international media, and the other to an unidentified list of recipients.

The e-mails republish the offending posts and video "but this time to a far wider audience", said Mr Singh. They also told the recipients where they could continue to read some of the offending posts after 5pm on Monday.

The e-mails also assert that Mr Ngerng's allegation against Mr Lee is "the truth" and that Mr Lee had "complained about the offending posts 'to eliminate the evidence of corruption'" from Mr Ngerng's blog, Mr Singh wrote.

That Mr Ngerng "misled everyone about his promise to remove the YouTube video amounts to very grave aggravation", the Senior Counsel said. And if the e-mails were sent by him, that would be yet further aggravation.

And "in view of the gravity of this matter" and "without prejudice" to Mr Lee's rights in relation to the video and e-mails, Mr Singh asked Mr Ravi to give, by 5pm yesterday, his answers to some questions.

They include whether he knew Mr Ngerng did not intend to remove and/or did not remove the video and whether he sent the offending e-mails.

In Mr Ravi's reply, obtained by The Straits Times, he said he had no prior knowledge of the two e-mails and had advised Mr Ngerng to desist from any action that will "further aggravate the injury and distress" to Mr Lee.

He added that his client admits sending the two e-mails and "sincerely and unreservedly apologises for his momentary lapse of judgment" - an explanation Mr Singh called "disingenuous and incredible".

Earlier yesterday, Mr Ngerng sent a lawyer's letter offering Mr Lee $5,000 as damages, and proposing each bears his own costs.

Mr Singh, in his second letter last night, said Mr Ngerng's apology and undertaking were completely insincere and that he "always intended to and did opportunistically use the occasion of our client's lawful and legitimate demand to raise his public profile, garner support and sympathy and renew his attack against our client".

The Senior Counsel also said Mr Ngerng had "pursued a course which was designed to aggravate the injury and distress" to Mr Lee by publishing or republishing the various posts and the YouTube video.

He also repeated the libel, went back on his apology and broke his undertaking, said Mr Singh. As a result, Mr Lee "became entitled to recover aggravated damages".

The Prime Minister, Mr Singh wrote, was prepared to forgo a substantial amount of the damages that he was entitled to if Mr Ngerng had behaved honourably. "Instead of doing that, he has cynically used the occasion of his knowingly false libel to promote himself."

Mr Ngerng has also not "come clean" to Mr Ravi, he added.

Mr Ravi is to let Mr Singh know by 5pm today if Mr Ngerng had given him instructions, and whether he will "accept service of process" on behalf of Mr Ngerng, the letter concluded.





Blogger allegedly sent emails about posts he should have removed
Ngerng has proposed to offer S$5,000 as damages for defamation to PM Lee Hsien Loong, with each party to bear their own costs
By Neo Chai Chin, TODAY, 27 May 2014

After blogger Roy Ngerng promised yesterday (May 26) to remove four blog posts and a YouTube video that had invited letters from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s lawyer, Mr Ngerng apparently sent emails to local and international media, as well as an unidentified group of recipients, telling them how they could continue accessing the posts.

The YouTube video was also made private instead of being removed.

Mr Lee’s lawyer Davinder Singh has written to Mr Ngerng’s lawyer M Ravi about the blogger misleading Mr Lee and the public. In a letter this morning, Mr Singh also questioned if Mr Ravi knew about the blogger’s actions.

Mr Ravi is to respond by 5pm today, on whether he knew about Mr Ngerng’s intentions to remove or not to remove the video, as well as to send the two emails.

Mr Lee reserves the right to recover aggravated damages.

Meanwhile, Mr Ngerng has proposed to offer S$5,000 as damages for defamation to Mr Lee, with each party to bear their own costs. The sum is based on Mr Ngerng’s “modest living and income that he derives from working as a healthcare worker”, said his lawyer, Mr Ravi, in a letter.

Mr Singh had sent a letter of demand to the 33-year-old on May 18 after the latter posted an article on May 15, alleging that Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies had been misappropriated. The deadline for Mr Ngerng to make an offer of damages is 5pm today, after an extension was granted yesterday.





Blogger accedes to PM's demand to remove posts, video
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 27 May 2014

BLOGGER Roy Ngerng has acceded to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's latest demand that he remove four blog posts and a YouTube video by 5pm yesterday.

The 33-year-old health-care worker has also agreed not to make further posts or videos of a similar nature, his lawyer M. Ravi said in his written reply yesterday afternoon to a letter sent earlier in the day by Mr Lee's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh.

Mr Ngerng would have faced aggravated damages if he had not complied.

Following Mr Ngerng's move, Mr Lee agreed to his request for yet more time to make a written offer of damages and legal costs. The deadline, which was 5pm yesterday, has now been pushed to 5pm tomorrow.

This is the latest development in the saga following a May 15 post on Mr Ngerng's blog The Heart Truths, in which he accused Mr Lee of misappropriating Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings.

After receiving a lawyer's letter on May 18, he took down the post and last Friday apologised unreservedly to the Prime Minister.

But, Mr Singh wrote yesterday, his subsequent online posts and video show his earlier apology "was not and never meant to be genuine".

Also, it has always been his intention to use Mr Lee's "lawful and legitimate demand to opportunistically raise his public profile, garner support and sympathy, and renew his attack" against Mr Lee, Mr Singh wrote.

It is apparent from the tone of the latest posts that Mr Ngerng is angry that he had failed in his bid to avoid paying damages to Mr Lee, Mr Singh added.

In a May 24 blog post, Mr Ngerng said he had apologised "only in relation to a mere perceived suggestion of 'misappropriation'". He added that the PM had not taken issue with the rest of his May 15 post.

The post carried the video in which Mr Ngerng said, among other things, that he "believes in speaking up for what is right in Singapore" and that he had spoken up "because I believe in speaking the truth".

In his various remarks in the video, Mr Singh said, Mr Ngerng is asserting "he was 'right' to make the allegation of criminal misappropriation against (Mr Lee), that the allegation is the 'truth', and (Mr Lee) has used the law to suppress the fact of his criminal misappropriation".

Mr Ngerng is also asserting, Mr Singh added, that Mr Lee "is seeking damages and costs not to enforce his legal rights", but to "assassinate" his character and "discredit" him.

Mr Singh also noted that since the May 18 lawyer's letter, Mr Ngerng has twice republished the "false and malicious" comparison he had made in the May 15 blog post that got him into trouble.

In that post, he had compared a chart he made, setting out relationships between the CPF, Mr Lee and Singapore companies like GIC, to a Channel NewsAsia chart about City Harvest Church leaders prosecuted for allegedly misusing church funds.

Two of the four posts taken down yesterday were put up after May 19, the day he removed the offending blog post.

The other two posts, first published in 2012 and last year, were republished as links to last week's posts.

In yesterday's letter, Mr Singh also said that should Mr Ngerng fail to honour his undertaking, the aggravated damages are to be calculated into the offer of damages he has to submit tomorrow.

Mr Lee reserves "all his rights", the letter concluded.





CPF Blogger says sorry; PM rejects plea against damages
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 24 May 2014

BLOGGER Roy Ngerng yesterday apologised to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for a blog post alleging Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings had been misappropriated, but appealed against Mr Lee's demand for damages.

The Prime Minister, however, is standing firm and Mr Ngerng, 33, has until 5pm on Monday to send in a written offer of damages and legal costs.

If Mr Ngerng fails to do so, legal proceedings will commence.



In a post on his blog The Heart Truths yesterday morning, Mr Ngerng said he admits and acknowledges that the allegation in his May 15 post is false and "completely without foundation".

He added: "I unreservedly apologise to Mr Lee Hsien Loong for the distress and embarrassment caused to him by this allegation."

A letter sent by his lawyer, Mr M. Ravi, yesterday also asked that damages be dropped as Mr Ngerng is a "civic-minded individual who earns his modest living as a health-care worker".

Mr Ravi claimed that Mr Lee cannot, in a letter of demand, ask Mr Ngerng to pay his legal costs.

But in response, PM Lee's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, said that falsely accusing Mr Lee of misappropriating CPF savings is a "very grave and highly malicious allegation", which fully entitled him to damages.

And contrary to Mr Ravi's claim, Mr Lee is "entitled in law" to those costs, he added.

Mr Singh added that PM Lee "reserves the right" to deal with the other matters in Mr Ngerng's letter "at the appropriate time". 

In the original post that got him into trouble, Mr Ngerng had compared a chart he made setting out relationships between the CPF, Mr Lee and Singapore companies, to a Channel NewsAsia chart about City Harvest Church leaders prosecuted for allegedly misusing church funds.

This is understood to mean the Prime Minister "is guilty of criminal misappropriation of the monies paid by Singaporeans to the CPF", Mr Singh had said.

In a letter to Mr Lee yesterday, Mr Ngerng said he noted that the the issue was with his claims of "misappropriation" and therefore the PM "would appreciate that the rest of the article, which had discussed Singaporeans' CPF issues in detail, was not touched on".

Mr Ngerng, who made a surprise bid for a Nominated MP post this week, added that he hoped for a chance to have a "frank conversation" with Mr Lee on the CPF.

"I'm disappointed that instead of engaging me in conversation, he is still using the threat of legal action," he told The Straits Times after his request to have damages dropped was rejected.

Mr Ngerng is the latest blogger to have to apologise to the PM. In the past two years, blogger Alex Au and sociopolitical blog Temasek Review Emeritus' editor Richard Wan also complied with requests from Mr Lee to take down and apologise for articles on their sites.

Mr Chia Boon Teck, owner of law firm Chia Wong LLP, said that, compared to the 1980s, political leaders have been more tolerant of feedback and criticism in the last decade.

"But once in a while, when they feel that the line has been crossed... then the critic or commentator better be prepared to put his money where his mouth is," he said.





Allegations against govt must be backed up with facts: Shanmugam
By Dylan Loh, Channel NewsAsia, 23 May 2014

People can criticise the government in Singapore but if any allegations are made, they must be backed up with facts.

Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam made that point on Friday, adding that there is no rule preventing people from critiquing national policies.

He suggested, however, that a sound approach would be to keep debates honest.



Mr Shanmugam was speaking at a law conference attended by local and overseas members of the legal fraternity.

The tension between civil liberties and societal responsibility was discussed at the symposium, which focused on the law's role in promoting development.

Commenting on the issue, Mr Shanmugam said it was possible to strike a balance between personal freedoms and the rule of law.

He added that under Singapore law, there is room for criticism of the government -- whether it is fair, reasonable and true, or the opposite.

"What you can't do, under our framework of law, is make a personal allegation of fact against anyone, including a politician.

“So if you say, the Prime Minister steals from pension funds, then you better be prepared to prove it,” he said.

Mr Shanmugam said that requiring people to back up allegations with facts means that integrity in politics is maintained.

He also said that various stakeholders have a key role to play.

Mr Shanmugam said in complex economies and societies, civil society groups’ participation is essential -- and coupled with the involvement of the wider community, it is how a country can move forward.

He noted that more developed countries will typically see a deeper desire for greater participation among people, and that kind of change has to be accepted.

"None of that is to say that political stability is unimportant. Political instability, I think -- at least for most countries and certainly for us -- would lead to, I think, economic paralysis, simply because decision-making in government would become difficult,” he said.

Mr Shanmugam emphasised that the key focus of the law is to provide a framework within which people can exist in a free environment. 





Blogger takes down post on CPF savings
But he has yet to comply with other requests
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 21 May 2014

BLOGGER Roy Ngerng removed a post that alleged the Government "misappropriated" Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings, a day after he was asked to do so by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

But Mr Ngerng said yesterday that he has not decided if he will comply with the other requests made in the letter of demand sent by Mr Lee's lawyer.

These include posting a public apology on his blog The Heart Truths, paying Mr Lee's legal costs and compensating him for damages.

He has up to today to do so, or he could face a defamation suit.

Mr Ngerng, 33, said his lawyer M. Ravi would meet Mr Lee's lawyer, Drew and Napier Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, to discuss the issue.

Yesterday he published another blog post that he said would show Singaporeans "once and for all" how CPF funds are being used.

But he had "changed some things" before putting it up yesterday in the light of the letter, he said.

Mr Ngerng, a health-care worker at a public hospital, said his new post is to promote an event that he is organising at Hong Lim Park on June 7 to protest against the CPF scheme.

The post that got Mr Ngerng into trouble, published on May 15, was also about CPF.

In it, he compared a Channel NewsAsia chart about the City Harvest Church leaders prosecuted for allegedly misusing about $50 million in church funds, to another chart that he had created.

His chart set out the relationships among the CPF, Mr Lee, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Temasek Holdings, GIC and other Singapore companies.

Mr Singh said in the letter of demand that this is understood to mean the Prime Minister "is guilty of criminal misappropriation of the monies paid by Singaporeans to the CPF".

He said the "false and baseless allegations" constitute serious libel, adding that the article "was published maliciously".

Netizens commenting on Mr Ngerng's blog were split between encouraging him and jeering him. Some asked him to stay strong and to continue blogging.

Others charged that his blog posts had not been truthful and factual as he had claimed, and said they were not surprised that he was being taken to task.





PM Lee demands apology and compensation from blogger
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 20 May 2014

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong has demanded an apology and compensation from blogger Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, 33, for a post that alleges Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings have been "misappropriated", and alludes to wrongdoing by the Government.

Mr Lee, in a letter of demand sent via his lawyer, also wants Mr Ngerng to remove the post from his blog called The Heart Truths and two Facebook pages.

If Mr Ngerng does not comply by tomorrow, he will be sued for defamation. Yesterday, he put the letter up on his blog.



Senior Counsel Davinder Singh wrote to Mr Ngerng on Sunday, asking that he remove the May 15 post with the headline Where Your CPF Money Is Going: Learning From The City Harvest Trial.

Also, the apology must be posted on the website and Mr Ngerng is to pay for legal costs as well as compensate Mr Lee for damages, wrote Mr Singh.

In the post, Mr Ngerng compared a Channel News Asia chart detailing the relationship among City Harvest Church leaders prosecuted for misusing about $50 million in church funds, to another chart that he had created.

His chart sets out the relationships among the CPF, Mr Lee, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Temasek Holdings, GIC and other Singapore companies.

Mr Singh said the blog post "is understood to mean that Mr Lee, the Prime Minister of Singapore and chairman of GIC, is guilty of criminal misappropriation of the monies paid by Singaporeans to the CPF".

The "false and baseless allegation" constitutes serious libel against Mr Lee and "disparages him and impugns his character, credit and integrity", he said. "It is also clear that the article was published maliciously," he added.

Mr Ngerng told The Straits Times yesterday he was in discussion with his lawyer M. Ravi on how to respond, and he was "disappointed the Government had decided to sue" him instead of addressing the points in his blog post. This latest post on the CPF is one of many he has posted on the topic over the years, and on the cost of living, immigration and other issues.

Asked about the Prime Minister's move, Mr Ngerng, who runs health programmes in a hospital, said: "No one gets sued on a daily basis and knows how to respond to it... my articles are based on research of information available online."

Since 2012, Singapore ministers have sent letters of demand to at least two other bloggers over online defamatory comments.

Blogger Alex Au was asked by PM Lee to apologise and retract an article last year about a deal to sell computer systems used by town councils, and the year before, by Law Minister K. Shanmugam about "false and scurrilous" comments on his personal life.

Mr Au complied each time.

In 2012, Mr Richard Wan, an editor of sociopolitical blog Temasek Review Emeritus, also complied when asked to apologise over an article alleging that Mr Lee had nepotistic motives.









Blogger given more time to apologise to PM
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 22 May 2014

BLOGGER Roy Ngerng has been given an extension to tomorrow to apologise publicly to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for an online post alleging that Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings were misappropriated.

Mr Lee agreed to extend the Wednesday deadline after receiving a formal request on Tuesday, his press secretary Chang Li Lin said yesterday in response to media queries.

The new deadline is 5pm tomorrow.

The public apology is one of the demands made in a letter Mr Lee's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, sent to Mr Ngerng on Sunday.

The letter of demand also asked Mr Ngerng to take down immediately his blog post on May 15 that implied CPF funds had been misappropriated, and to pay for Mr Lee's legal costs and compensate him for damages.

Mr Ngerng, 33, removed the post on his blog The Heart Truths on Monday night.

The health-care worker now hopes to pursue the issue in Parliament.

Yesterday, he announced on his blog that he had applied to be a Nominated Member of Parliament.

"It is an opportunity to discuss national issues more constructively. We need to have a conversation with the Government, and Parliament is a platform for that," he told The Straits Times.

He also said he has weathered the incident with the help of supporters: "This incident has caused more people to want to come take part in civil discourse. This, I hope, shows the Government that a legal suit might not be the best way forward. It would be better if we could sit down and have a discussion."

Meanwhile, Singapore Democratic Party leader Chee Soon Juan and human rights group Maruah have spoken up against Mr Lee's move.

Dr Chee, who has been sued by government leaders for defamation, wrote on his Facebook page: "Good leaders shouldn't take action, even though we can, against those who speak ill of us."

Maruah president Braema Mathi said in a statement that it was "concerned that these actions on the part of the Prime Minister will further shrink the space for public discourse in Singapore".

Mr Ngerng's article, if incorrect, should be refuted by Mr Lee, she added.










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