Veteran blogger and human rights campaigner Leong Sze Hian took to his Facebook on Friday (16 August) to share e-mail screenshots of the replies between him and a Singapore Land Authority (SLA) officer.
In his post, he asked for advice, suggestions or help from people after the SLA officer mentioned that the rear boundary wall and fence of his house at 59 Walmer Drive had encroached onto part of State Land.
Mr Leong explained that the only way for him to rectify the encroachment is to knock down and rebuild the wall of his 64-year-old home as he was told that his wall and fence encroached the state land by 1.3cm to 4.9cm.
If that is not all, Mr Leong was also asked by SLA when he would be removing the encroachment, forcing him to seek “advice, suggestions or help” from his social media friends.
Shortly after his post was up, SLA promptly responded and said that Mr Leong’s “post contains deliberate untruths and half truths”, and “the suggestion you (Mr Leong) make is that the request by SLA was unreasonable”.
SLA then went on to point out the actual length of the encroachment to be between 13cm and 49 cm, which is 10 times more than the number that the blogger stated in his original post. SLA also accompanied their post with a picture to make it clear to the public.
“Your rear boundary fence had encroached between 13cm and 49cm onto the State land behind your property. A picture of the fence with concrete footing is enclosed. It is not a whole wall as you have suggested,” SLA said.
If that is not all, the Authority also noted that since February last year, they’ve been asking the blogger to rectify this encroachment and he failed to do so until now.
“Your neighbours have also similarly encroached on State Land. Several have been contacted, and have been co-operative, and have taken steps/are taking steps to move their fences back, unlike you,” SLA noted.
They added, “The Singapore Land Authority respects private property but also has a responsibility to safeguard state land, which belongs to all Singaporeans. You ought to know the law, and we expect you to keep within the legal boundaries of your own premises.”
Leong Sze Hian replies to SLA
Upon reading the Authority’s counter to his original claim, the blogger then took to his Facebook on 18 August (Sunday) to state his side of the story.
He said that the diagram that was sent to him said “0.13 and 0.49”, without providing any unit of measurement in the diagram. As such, he thought that it was 1.3cm and 4.9cm since his neighbour said that two of the other six affected houses were between 5 to 10cm.
“As it is a large drain behind the houses which is in a straight line – if you look at my back wall – you may also have the impression that it is not the disputed encroachment size, as my wall is only about 25cm thick,” the blogger wrote.
Based on the photo that SLA posted, Mr Leong noted that the encroachment line drawn on the photo was along the entire edge of the wall. He then questioned, “If there is a huge 49cm gap, shouldn’t the line be far away from the wall?! That’s also why I thought the gap was small (4.9cm).
“Now that it has been suggested to me – I have taken another closer re-examination of the diagram – I just realised that the “49 cm” portion of the encroachment may be due to a tall metal tower with electric cables (“EP5 Cable above”) – of about 35 cm (of the 49 cm), outside my wall?” he explained.
He added, “In the SLA’s photo sent to me – the encroachment line drawn on the photo is along the edge of the wall – and since the wall is about 25 cm thick – anyone who sees it may like me – think that it is 4.9 cm and never even think or crossed my mind that it is 49 cm. As the back boundary-wall/fence have been there for 64 years (probably for all the 6 houses too), and also in view of the above – I dispute the size of the encroachment.”
Responding to SLA’s comment for saying that his post contained “deliberate untruths, and half truths”, Mr Leong slammed back and said no one “would be stupid enough to reduce the figures by 10 times”, as the Authority can easily and immediate dispute the figure.
“Why accuse an ordinary Merdeka Generation senior citizen of “deliberate untruths”, “half truths”, “(not) co-operative”, etc, who was simply posting on Facebook asking for advice and suggestions? I did not tag SLA nor did I accuse SLA of being “unreasonable”. Isn’t it disingenuous of SLA to say that “the suggestion you make is that the request by SLA was unreasonable”?” he pointed out.
He added, “My facebook post was merely asking for advice and suggestions, as I was at my wit’s end – when I had already informed the SLA that I did not see any issue with the encroachment inserted into my 64 year-old house’s title, but am still being asked to knock down and rebuild the wall to rectify the encroachment?”
In addition, Mr Leong also states that based on SLA’s Facebook post, it called the wall as just a “fence” and concrete footing”, but according to the letter that it sent to the blogger, the Authority called it “a wall”.
As such, Mr Leong said that it’s “disingenuous” of SLA to call him deceptive and providing “half truths” when they themselves used the word wall in the letter that they sent him.
On top of all the other questions that he has raised to SLA, he also asked how is it possible for the encroachment of his house be 13 to 49cm, whereas all the other six affected houses only encroached by 5 to 10cm. This seems rather impossible since Mr Leong’s house is somewhere in the middle of the six houses, the blogger noted.
Lastly, Mr Leong also pointed out that two SLA officers told him on 6 August that all his neighbours have already rectified the encroachments. However, based on SLA’s Friday post, it stated that his neighbours “have taken steps/are taking steps to move their fences back”, prompting him to ask which is the exact truth.
He also added that he wants SLA to “tell us how many of the 6 houses affected have already rectified the encroachments?”
This is not the first time Mr Leong had troubles with the authorities. He is famously known for his legal battle with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as he sued the Singaporean blogger last year for defamation over a Facebook share he made on his Facebook profile with an article from TheCoverage.My. The article claimed that editor-in-chief of investigative journalism platform Sarawak Report (SR) Ms Clare Rewcastle had mentioned Singapore as “one of the key investigation targets, alongside Switzerland and United States” in the 1MDB scandal during an interview with Malaysian media.
Following this, Mr Leong filed a countersuit against PM Lee for the abuse of the process of the Court.
After Mr Leong filed the counterclaim, PM Lee’s lawyers made an application to strike out the counterclaim “on the ground that it has no basis in law and is completely hopeless”. In response, the veteran blogger then filed an application to strike out PM Lee’s claim for abuse of process of the court and the hearing for both their applications were heard on Monday (25 February).
As such, after hearing counsel from both sides, Justice Aedit Abdullah released a judgement that strikes out the blogger’s counterclaim against PM Lee, citing Mr Leong’s failure to disclose a “reasonable cause of action” in his counterclaim.