Some questions for the PM.
This is a copy of the Reform Party’s latest Press release.
“Reform Party is concerned that the Prime Minister in his personal capacity as Mr Lee Hsien Loong is currently engaged in a defamation suit against the blogger Roy Ngerng. When any Minister, let alone the Prime Minister, is involved in legal proceedings in a personal capacity there may be implications for them in their official position.
By his own admission, the PM’s lawsuit, where he is seeking a significant sum in excess of S$400,000 against the unemployed former health worker blogger is a private matter and has nothing to do with the official duties of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Can the PM assure the citizens that he can carry out his duties as a public servant funded by the taxpayer and simultaneously be engaged in a legal wrangle which has now reached the high court, without significant impact on those official duties? If so, we ask for those assurances to be made public.
Because of the potential implications for conflict we believe the PM must give a clear and detailed accounting of all or any taxpayer funded state resources, official resources, official machinery and official personnel used in the period starting with the monitoring of bloggers, research and information gathering through to the issuing of legal letters, the follow-up, the subsequent legal action and the current hearings to assess damages and the media and PR management throughout. We believe we should also be informed as to how much time and what resources were expended by state legal officers and civil servants in advising the PM on the implications of legal proceedings in his personal capacity.
We respectfully request answers to the following questions:
- How much time has your Official Press Secretary -a civil servant whose salary is also tax payer funded –spent in meeting journalists, researching, composing and writing letters on your behalf to foreign newspapers such as the Economist, defending your position over your personal lawsuit ? What economic value would you put on this or if it is not possible to assign a dollar value how many man-hours have been expended so far?
- Did the PMO bill you personally for the total cost of using your Press Secretary on your private business?
- Did you pay the cost of other resources used to assist you in your suit against Roy Ngerng?
- State Media photos show you arriving at court in a chauffeured limousine. Did you use your own car or an official car to transport you to the hearing when you gave evidence at that hearing?
- If it was an official car, did you pay for the use of the car, the driver, the petrol?
- Who paid for the cost of your bodyguards or any police escort to accompany you to the hearing?
- Was any extra security in place and who paid for that?
- Did you take official or unpaid leave for the day you spent in court fighting your private matter or do you expect taxpayers to finance it?
- You are paid at least $2.4 million p.a. out of state funds as PM to run the country and for your MP duties. How much of your working time has been spent on your private lawsuit against Roy Ngerng? Again can you assign a dollar value to this and will you be refunding the taxpayer?
- We are further disturbed by your admission in court under cross-examination by Roy Ngerng that you had been watching him for some time “making more and more outrageous allegations about the CPF, stopping short of accusing me of doing bad things personally, but coming closer and closer to saying that.” Please clarify how much time, for some time is, in real terms. Mr Ngerng for example, started blogging in 2012. How much of your working time would you estimate has been spent in “watching” what bloggers are saying or might be about to say? Do you watch these bloggers on official machinery? Do you consider that you can monitor all these bloggers over a period of time and still run the country efficiently? Would you say this is the best use of taxpayers’ money?
- Maybe you do not watch the bloggers personally. Do you in fact watch them personally or do you have private or state funded staff watch them for you? Have you set up a special unit within the PMO to monitor bloggers and social media including Mr Ngerng for comments that you do not like personally or that you consider defamatory of you in your personal capacity? Is this being paid for out of State funds?
- You are presumably aware that Tan Tock Seng Hospital dismissed Mr Ngerng for among other things, misusing hospital resources. Similarly NUS sacked Chee Soon Juan in the early 1990s for using office stamps for a personal letter even though he had sought permission. Would you not agree that if you have used state resources for your own personal interest such as this lawsuit against Roy Ngerng, then you are guilty of the same misappropriation? At the very least would you not consider that you are giving the taxpayer poor value for the salary they provide?
We are further concerned that the Prime Minister’s responses in Court to questions set to him by the unemployed former health care worker and blogger Roy Ngerng show him in a poor light. Even though he is suing the blogger in his personal capacity he cannot escape the fact that he is Prime Minister of Singapore and as such his snide and sarcastic ripostes in a Court of Law may be deemed by many to be unseemly for a man in that position. Particularly given the huge disparity in income, status, power, influence and wealth between the Prime Minister and the blogger he is suing. Has the Prime Minister not considered that he risks bringing the office of Prime Minster into disrepute with such actions?
For example, his admission that he monitors bloggers watching for them to step over a line and be clearly defamatory. Does he not consider that this will appear unseemly for a man in his position? Additionally his response to Mr Ngerng’s analogy about a knife and a cut finger “knowing you it may be” reveals a personal animosity unbecoming of the leader of a developed nation.
We do not challenge the judgement that has already been made in his favour but we would like to know whether with all the legal and media handling advice at his disposal, the Prime Minister was not warned of the dangers of the Streisand Effect.
We trust that the Prime Minister is not too busy monitoring the worldwide web to respond and look forward to a clarification that no official resources have in fact been expended or if that is not the case to a full and frank accounting”.
– See more at: http://reform.sg/?page_id=2614#sthash.eW11SeiO.dpuf