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VIVIAN & SHANMUGAM SERVING LEE HSIEN YANG COURT PAPERS FOR DEFAMATION VIA FB MESSENGER

Singapore’s Minister of Law and Home Affairs, K. Shanmugam; and Minister of Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, have reportedly filed a lawsuit against Lee Hsien Yang for defamation in the High Court.

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Both ministers have previously responded publicly back in July, to “defamatory statements” made by Lee Hsien Yang and sent lawyers’ letters to him for accusing them of “acting corruptly and for personal gain by having Singapore Land Authority (“SLA”) give us preferential treatment by illegally felling trees without approval, and also having SLA pay for renovations to 26 and 31 Ridout Road”, which they said were “false”.

They asked him to apologise, withdraw his allegations and pay damages, failing which they will proceed to sue him, which they have since done so.

With Lee currently in the United Kingdom and the two minister plaintiffs in Singapore, they have decided to serve Lee’s court papers for defamation via Facebook Messenger on the basis that it is impractical to serve it to him in person, according to The Straits Times.

The two ministers are at the moment seeking a court order to acknowledge that the papers have been served to Lee via messenger in a PDF format.

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Back in 2016, the High Court previously said that plaintiffs are allowed to serve their court papers via Skype, Facebook or message boards online if the defendant can’t be reached in person.

Recap

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan have taken a decisive step against Lee Hsien Yang, accusing him of defamation. The dispute revolves around false allegations made by Mr. Lee concerning Ridout Road, which Lee has since been issued with a POFMA order.

Ministers Responded with Legal Action

On 27th July, Lee Hsien Yang received a POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act) order for his Facebook post, which contained certain claims about Ridout Road. The ministers, Shanmugam and Balakrishnan, assert that the statements made by Mr. Lee are false and defamatory.

Mr. Lee accused the ministers of acting corruptly for personal gain by allegedly receiving preferential treatment from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). According to him, the SLA allowed the ministers to fell trees illegally without proper approval and that the SLA paid for renovations the 26 and 31 Ridout Road properties rented by the ministers.

In response to these serious accusations, K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan decided to take legal action against Lee Hsien Yang. On 27th July, they sent lawyers’ letters to Mr. Lee, demanding an apology, withdrawal of the allegations, and payment of damages, which will be donated to charity. The ministers have asserted that the allegations are entirely false and damaging to their reputation and integrity.

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Joint statement by K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan

[Defamatory statements by Lee Hsien Yang]

Minister Shanmugam/Vivian and I have sent lawyers’ letters to Lee Hsien Yang for defaming us.

Lee Hsien Yang has accused us of acting corruptly and for personal gain by having Singapore Land Authority give us preferential treatment by illegally felling trees without approval, and also having the SLA pay for renovations to 26 and 31 Ridout Road. These allegations are false.

We have asked him to apologise, withdraw his allegations and pay damages, which we will donate to charity.

If he does not do so, we will sue him.

Lee Hsien Yang’s original post

CORRECTION NOTICE:

This Facebook post contains false statements of fact relating to the 26 Ridout Road and 31 Ridout Road matter, and to SPH Media Trust. For the correct facts, click here: https://www.gov.sg/article/factually250723

Trust in the PAP has been shattered.

PM Lee has recently said that “high standards of propriety and personal conduct, together with staying clean and incorrupt, are the fundamental reasons Singaporeans trust and respect the PAP.”

Trust has to be earned. It cannot simply be inherited. PM Lee Hsien Loong’s failure of leadership has squandered that trust.

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Two ministers have leased state-owned mansions from the agency that one of them controls, felling trees and getting state-sponsored renovations. Two Temasek companies have committed serious corruption offences – Keppel and the former Sembcorp Marine. SPH Media, an entity being given almost a billion dollars of taxpayers monies, has fraudulently inflated its circulation numbers. A cabinet minister has been arrested for corruption. Yet again, the speaker of Parliament has resigned, over a scandal which the PM knew about for years but did not disclose.

Wei Ling and I stated in June 2017 that “We do not trust Lee Hsien Loong as a brother or as a leader.” These latest facts speak volumes. Hsien Loong’s regime does not deserve Singaporeans’ trust.

POFMA direction previously issued to Lee Hsien Yang

Issuance of Correction Direction under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act to Lee Hsien Yang

On 23 July 2023, Mr Lee Hsien Yang published a post on his Facebook page, which made untrue statements that:

a) The State paid for the renovations to 26 Ridout Road and 31 Ridout Road because the properties were leased by Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan.

b) Trees at 26 Ridout Road and 31 Ridout Road were allowed to be felled because the properties were leased by Ministers Shanmugam and Balakrishnan.

c) SPH Media Trust fraudulently inflated its circulation numbers.

The Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong has instructed for a Correction Direction, under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), to be issued to Mr Lee Hsien Yang. Mr Lee Hsien Yang will be required to carry the correction notice, stating that the Facebook post contains false statements of fact.

Clarifications on the False Statements

Firstly, Mr Lee Hsien Yang made an untrue statement that the State paid for the renovations to 26 Ridout Road and 31 Ridout Road because the properties were leased by Ministers Shanmugam and Balakrishnan. The identity of the tenants had no bearing on the decision on the works to be carried out on the properties. The post
omits important information that the works done were in keeping with the Singapore Land Authority’s (SLA) practice, and were assessed to be necessary in the circumstances, as explained by Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong in Parliament on 3 July 2023.

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a) SLA invests a significant amount in maintaining conserved properties, which include 26 Ridout Road and 31 Ridout Road. SLA has spent similar, or even larger, amounts on other Black and White bungalows, consistent with conservation requirements (see Factually article in paragraph 6).

b) Most of the costs incurred for 26 Ridout Road and 31 Ridout Road were for works that external consultants had determined to be necessary, in light of the condition of the properties and to comply with the relevant conservation requirements. The remaining costs were incurred as part of the usual works done before the
commencement of a tenancy to ensure that the property is habitable.

Secondly, Mr Lee Hsien Yang made the statement that the trees at 26 Ridout Road and 31 Ridout Road were allowed to be felled because the properties were leased by Ministers Shanmugam and Balakrishnan. This is untrue. The identity of the tenants had no bearing on the felling of the trees at the properties. All decisions to fell trees with a girth size of more than one metre were made following inspections by independent arborists, and safety issues were identified. Where approval was required for any trees to be felled, such approval was obtained from the National Parks Board (NParks). The reasons for the felling of the trees at both properties have been explained by the Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong in Parliament on 3 July 2023.

Thirdly, Mr Lee Hsien Yang also made the statement that SPH Media Trust fraudulently inflated its circulation numbers. This is untrue. The overstatement of circulation numbers happened when the media business was under SPH Limited – a listed company. This was before SPH Media Trust was incorporated. When SPH Media Trust took over SPH Limited’s media business, it discovered, reported, and investigated the circulation issue. The Government’s funding agreement to build up public service media capabilities was signed with SPH Media Trust, and not SPH Limited. The funding quantum was based on SPH Media Trust’s transformation needs, and not the circulation numbers.

Publication of Correction Notice

As required by the Correction Direction, Mr Lee Hsien Yang must publish correction notice on the said post on his Facebook page. The correction notice will provide a link to the Factually article, which lays out the facts and clarifications on the matter, at the following link: https://www.gov.sg/article/factually250723.

MINISTRY OF LAW
25 JULY 2023

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