The High Court today dismissed an application by blogger Roy Ngerng’s for a Queen’s Counsel (QC) to represent him in a hearing on damages he must pay for defaming Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
High Court judge Steven Chong also ordered Ngerng to pay S$6,000 in costs, inclusive of disbursements.
Ngerng was found guilty of defaming PM Lee in a blog post he made last year that suggested PM Lee misappropriated pension funds in a similar way to how the City Harvest Church was accused of misusing church funds.
The City Harvest Church is currently still before the courts with no verdict yet to be made.
Ngerng’s lawyer George Hwang had filed the bid on 28 May, and had subsequently cited the precedence of the case as grounds for a QC.
This is the first time a blogger is being sued by the Prime Minister in Singapore.
However, Justice Chong said that “novelty is not to be confused with complexity”, as QCs can only be admitted to argue cases in the Singapore courts if they have special qualifications or experience for the purpose of the case.
He also said that while Ngerng’s choice of QC was well-respected in the field of defamation in the United Kingdom, the subject matter of this case is “local-centric”.
Another factor for considering a QC was whether local senior counsel was available to take the case, and whether there is a need to engage the services of a foreign legal counsel.
In response, Justice Chong called Ngerng’s attempts to seek members of the local bar who are not senior counsels to argue his case “disappointing”.
“If Mr Ravi was suitable at the more complex stage, I fail to see why local non-senior counsels would not be suitable at this less complex stage,” Justice Chong was reported by media as saying.
Human rights lawyer M Ravi had been representing Ngerng until his license to practice has been suspended on medical grounds. Ravi is currently seeking to have his license reinstated.
Adapted from media reports.