Human Rights Lawyer, M Ravi takes issues with press statement released by the press secretary of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in relation to the on-going defamation suit between PM Lee and Roy Ngerng.
It was reported in Channel News Asia that Ms Chang Li Lin, the Press Secretary to PM Lee, issued the following statement on Monday (Jan 12) in response to media queries,
"At the hearing today, the Judge ordered that the total costs to be paid by the Defendant to the Plaintiff be fixed at $29,000. This amount is for the legal fees and related expenses incurred up to the conclusion of the application for summary judgement. The dates for the subsequent hearings are not confirmed.
"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 whether he would be giving evidence by 30 January 2015. PM Lee stands ready to be cross-examined, a position he has earlier communicated to the Court".
M Ravi, representing lawyer for Mr Ngerng in the defamation suit launched by PM Lee last year, said that the above statement by the press secretary is an inaccurate statement, and that she has been misinformed.
He said that on the issue of Mr Ngerng's giving of evidence, his recollection is that "when asked, I would take instructions."
He clarified that it is common and normal practice when a question as to a client's current intention is asked by the Court. It means that a lawyer will always first verify whether his client will or will not be taking certain action. It carries no assertion either way.
"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. This highlights the absurdity of your statement." wrote M Ravi. "Obviously you did not intend to make this error. Indeed, it is inconceivable that you would wish, as the Prime Minister's press secretary to be on record as misrepresenting the facts, however innocently."
M Ravi added that the correct position for the press secretary to have taken would be "that Mr Ngerng’s lawyer indicated at the hearing that he would be taking instructions on whether Mr Ngerng would be giving evidence."
He also brought up a question about why is the press secretary to the Prime Minister issuing press releases on behalf of PM Lee who is filing the law suit in his personal capacity.
"Incidentally, as this is purportedly a private law suit brought by the Prime Minister in his personal capacity, can you explain why you as a Civil Servant holding the official title of Press Secretary to the Prime Minister would be issuing press releases on behalf of a private litigant? I ask this in all earnestness in order to understand whether you intend me to understand that the real Plaintiff is the Prime Minister in his capacity as Prime Minister."
The court has ruled in a closed door hearing on Monday that Roy Ngerng to pay S$29,000 in total for legal fees and filing cost to PM Lee’s lawyer for summary judgment ruling on the defamation suit between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Roy Ngerng.
Mr Ngerng, is being sued by Mr Lee in his personal capacity for a series of articles which had accused Mr Lee of “criminal misappropriation” of Singaporeans’ Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies, said Mr Lee’s lawyers, by comparing the management of CPF monies by the Government Investment Corporation of Singapore – or GIC Pte Ltd – with the corruption trial of leaders of the City Harvest Church.
Hearing of the assessment of damages for the defamation is expected to take place over 4 continuous days in late June, with cross examination of all witnesses in open Court.