On 19 March 2019, veteran blogger and human rights campaigner Leong Sze Hian posted the latest update of his infamous libel case with Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong on his personal Facebook account, stating that he will appeal the decision to strike off his countersuit of the defamation suit against him.
The statement released by Lim Tean of Carson Law Chambers, the law firm representing Mr Leong reiterated that his client would stand firm by “the argument that the claim brought by the PM is an abuse of process as a defence at trial”.
This came shortly after a statement was sent by the prosecuting team, Davinder Singh Chambers (DSC) to Mr Leong the day before, requesting him to pay a total of S$21,000 for two summonses by 21 March.
To recap, it all began when Mr Leong shared an article published by The Coverage on 7 November 2018 regarding the IMDB corruption scandal and its link to the Singaporean PM. A few days later on 10 November, the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) ordered Mr Leong to remove the post, which he complied to do so as instructed.
Mr Leong then received a letter from the PM’s lawyer of defamation allegations and a suit was filed against him on 4 December 2018. Mr Leong attempted to countersuit PM Lee for the abuse of process of the Court.
However, the High Court ruled out the counterclaim in favour of PM Lee on the basis that “there is no tort of abuse of process and providing for no exceptions”. Abuse of process is defined as a form of dignitary tort which is closely related to malicious prosecution. Abuse of process can be brought against someone when there is a valid reason for the lawsuit, but the legal system has been misused for ulterior purposes.
Therefore, Mr Leong maintains his stand that the PM’s claim is a tort of abuse of process towards him and his freedom of expression as he did not “assert what the article was alleged to have said was true”. He also emphasised on the fact that there could have been no damage caused by the few readers of his post because the citizens of Singapore are aware that “the Government were asserting that the article was false.“
Lim Tean ends the statement by citing that Mr Leong’s appeal “will challenge the Prime Minister’s case on meaning, extent of publication, on re-publication and on malice.”