Does PM Lee’s convincing win in AMK make it impossible for him to claim damages from Roy Ngerng, Reform Party candidate?
My view has always been that more damage to Mr Lee’s reputation was as a result of his refusal to accept an apology in the first place and then move on. Mr Lee also turned down Roy’s initial offer of S$5,000. Mr Lee’s ill advised law suit damaged not only his own reputation, showing him up to be a petty bully who would stoop so low to sue a blogger but also damaged Singapore’s reputation. Many foreign media reported on the case embarrassingly with The Economist referencing the uneven power distribution and unnecessary force as a ‘Butterfly being Broken on a Wheel’.Last week the PM and his Party, the PAP were returned to government with a convincing mandate as a result of the votes cast in GE 2015 . In particular in Ang Mo Kio where the blogger turned politician Roy Ngerng stood against him in the Reform Party team, Mr Lee won with such an overwhelming majority that he will find it nearly impossible to prove financial damages. His reputation is also clearly intact. What actual damage has he suffered ? None!
“Would the PM Lee now consider either dropping the case against Roy Ngerng Yi Ling or ask for a token sum of $1 now that he has won GE2015 with a strong mandate”
Actually AYG is a bit confused about the Court case and the token sum so it is worth clearing that up
- The case can’t be dropped. It has already been heard by the Courts and gone through an appeal. Mr Lee won and Roy Ngerng lost. So defamation has already been proven. The court has reserved judgement on the actual amount to be awarded but the case is over.
- Mr Lee can’t request a token sum himself at this stage. He has already moved his suit to the Supreme Court where he is suing for an amount equal to or greater than $250,000. If he were to suddenly drop his claim to S$1:00 then he is admitting he wasn’t damaged which would have implications for his defamation finding. Roy could even ask for that judgment to be overturned. So no, PM Lee can’t suddenly ask for a token sum.
- Mr Lee could have avoided going to Court in the first place if his lawyers had engaged with Roy, demanded a retraction, a public apology and also A Token Sum for hurt caused.
- It is only the Supreme Court that can decide to award a token sum and it is in their hands now.
I don’t believe Foreign interest in the case or pressure will sway the Courts either. In fact the Justice has already made a statement in relation to the fact that ICJ observed the case.
“Justice Lee Seiu Kin on Friday had stated that he felt “absolutely no pressure” from foreign organisations, but would accept and consider the
points made in both ICJ’s brief as well as that submitted by the Centre for International Law (CentreLaw) in the Philippines.”
I believe if any such point about lack of proven damages were to be made by the Justice, the sum is more likely to be in the region of S$10-20,000 to be awarded for hurt feelings. It would need to be more than the S$5,000 already offered by Roy but far less than the S$250,000.
Political bearing and the role of the Reform Party
Don’t forget this is a civil case. Roy also has a criminal case pending. If the fine in that case is excessive then according to the Law Roy will be prevented from standing for election for a period of 5 years. No matter what amount awarded against Roy in Mr Lee’s civil case it can’t stop Roy from standing. It could still appear to be politicly motivated though. Now that Roy has shown political allegiance by joining The Reform Party and has contested an election it could be claimed that the civil suit was motivated less by the need to prove defamation against Mr Lee the civilian than by the motivation of Mr Lee the PM, to crush an opposition voice. How ironic that the founder of the Reform Party J B Jeyaretnam was himself sued into oblivion by the PAP. Although that was before crowd funding!
The PAP win in AMK may well turn out to be a hollow victory for Mr Lee.
Please also read my earlier rebuttal to claims that Roy shouldn’t be contesting an election and was “a ticking time bomb” here .