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Inaccurate Straits Times report on Lee-Ngerng case

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On Thursday, lawyers for both Lee Hsien Loong and blogger Roy Ngerng were in court for a pre-trial conference regarding the defamation suit brought by the former against the latter.

The suit stems from a blog post which Mr Ngerng had written and published on 15 May 2014, titled, “Where your CPF money is going: learning from the City Harvest trial”.

In that article, says Mr Lee’s lawyers from law firm Drew and Napier, Mr Ngerng had allegedly accused Mr Lee, who is also the chairman of the Government Investment Corporation of Singapore (GIC), of “criminal misappropriation” of monies from Singapore’s state-run pension fund, the Central Provident Fund (CPF), by comparing the criminal trial of the leaders of City Harvest Church (CHC) with the management of the CPF monies.

The CHC leaders are facing corruption charges in how they managed church funds.

The Straits Times, on 18 July put out the following report, titled, “Blogger suit: Hearing on summary judgment plea in Sept”.

The report was written by Nur Asyiqin Mohamed Salleh.

In paragraph 3 of her report, Ms Nur Asyiqin reported that M Ravi, lawyer for Mr Ngerng, had told her that the full day hearing of the case “will be presided over by a High Court judge, rather than a registrar as is normally the case.”

She then reported:

“This, said Mr Ravi, is because ‘both halves have indicated they will appeal’ if the court rules against them.”

However, when contacted, Mr Ravi’s office said he did not say the word “halves.”

“What Mr Ravi had actually said, was in fact, ‘both have indicated they will appeal’,” his office said.

“While the error might appear inconsequential, Mr Ravi takes strong exception as the error has the potential to suggest malapropism on his part and consequently be a cause for embarrassment.   Further, there was never a ‘whole’ in the equation which could have prompted the suggestion of halves.”

In paragraph 13 of the Straits Times report, it said:

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

Mr Ravi was then quoted as having said, “I don’t think either of us is interested.”

Mr Ravi’s office has clarified that this was “erroneous.”

“What Mr Ravi had intimated was that he was not sure if either party was interested,” his office said. “The writer had omitted what Mr Ravi had also said, namely that if the Prime Minister, being the plaintiff who had initiated the action, were minded to propose mediation, then his client will consider it, and therefore the possibility of mediation has not been ruled out.”

And in paragraph 14 of the Straits Times report, it quoted Mr Ngerng as having 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.”

When contacted by The Online Citizen (TOC), Mr Ngerng said he did not say “full-blown trial.”

Instead, what he did say was that he hopes there will be a “full trial.”

“I hope that we are able to resist the summary judgment to go for an open trial,” Mr Ngerng told TOC, “because the CPF is a matter of public interest and I hope there will be a debate that will allow information to be revealed to the public so that there will be accountability and transparency.”

Mr Ravi’s office also questioned the accuracy of the paragraph in the Straits Times.

“The words contained in the parentheses suggest that both Mr Ravi and Mr Roy Ngerng are together engaged in the same objective,” Mr Ravi’s office said.

“While it is true that Mr Ravi will strive to represent his client in the best manner, he cannot be identified with his client to suggest that he will fight against the summary judgment when he is not and never was the defendant. Mr Ravi is the Counsel and cannot be identified with the client’s cause.”

When contacted by The Online Citizen (TOC), Mr Ravi said he has contacted the Straits Times about the inaccuracies and leaves it to the newspaper to make the necessary corrections.