Lee Hsien Loong vs Roy Ngerng – trial titbits

Roy Ngerng emerges from the Supreme Court to camera flashes and questions from the media after a day spent cross-examining PM Lee Hsien Loong.
Roy Ngerng emerges from the Supreme Court to camera flashes and questions from the media after a day spent cross-examining PM Lee Hsien Loong.

• The queue to the courtroom where the hearing for damaged to be awarded to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his defamation suit against Roy Ngerng was filled by about 8.30am. By the time the trial started at 10am, half of those in the queue found themselves still outside the courtroom.

• The Online Citizen understands that a number of those inside the courtroom were supporters of PM Lee. They had waved at him when he entered the courtroom, to which he had acknowledged their presence.

• Ngerng’s family members, while having arrived at 9.30am, were not able to secure seats inside the courtroom, and spent much of the morning waiting outside. Eventually, the security guards helped to secure an entry pass from someone who had left the room for the morning. Ngerng’s father then entered at about 12pm to hear his son cross-examine PM Lee.

• Ngerng noted several times during the hearing that he was uncomfortable with PM Lee making claims to damages based on what he felt were “suggestions” that people read the defamatory articles, without providing substantive evidence of readership. However, High Court Judge Lee Seiu Kin reminded him that in his submission, “what Davinder (Singh, PM Lee’s lawyer) is suggesting that a swallow does make a summer.”

PM Lee and Roy• Ngerng queried PM Lee on his claim that, simply because he had written that his article was “of considerable public interest”, it does not mean that people will want to read it. “I’m sure you didn’t write this hoping Singaporeans would not read it,” countered PM Lee.

• Ngerng queried PM Lee on whether he had specifically stated in any of his articles that PM Lee was guilty of “criminal misappropriation of CPF funds”. PM Lee repeatedly alluded that it was the intent of the article that mattered, but both him and his lawyer eventually conceded that Ngerng did not use that specific term.

• Ngerng queried if he made any comparison between what is happening in City Harvest Church and the person “Lee Hsien Loong” in the original blog post that started the defamation charge. PM Lee replied that Ngerng referred to the government, of which he is the head – “You did not have to (name me specifically)”, said PM Lee, to which Ngerng retorted empathetically, “Mr Lee, I did not want to!”, in trying to say that he had no malicious intent.

• Ngerng asked PM Lee whether, as the Prime Minister, if he had not considered using the various resources at his disposal to clarify, counter, engage Ngerng in dialogue, or requested for him to amend his article, before reaching for the legal route. “Defamation has been committed – if there had been no breach, then dialogue can take place,” replied PM Lee.

• “With great power comes great responsibility,” said Ngerng, pointing out that if PM Lee had only resorted to legal means to resolve the alleged defamation, then it “shows recklessness in how the law was being used (by the PM)”. “If the Prime Minister himself has been reckless, why should I take the full responsibility for his reputation?”

• When Ngerng asked on another occasion if PM Lee was suing him in his personal of official capacity, Judge Lee offered the explanation that while the PM was suing in his individual capacity, the issue of damages to be awarded would also depend on factors such as their position in life, standing in society and occupation.

• Towards the end of the questioning, Ngerng compared the apology that PM Lee made towards the end of hustings at the 2011 general elections with the various apologies that he has issued following the filing of the defamation suit. “Saying sorry would have been enough, but that was not what you did,” retorted PM Lee.

Also read TOC’s report on Ngerng’s cross-examination of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.