The trial of the defamation suit made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong against financial advisor and veteran blogger Leong Sze Hian, scheduled to take place early next month, has now been postponed after the former’s lead counsel had reportedly fallen ill.
Defence counsel Lim Tean of Carson Law Chambers in a Facebook post on Monday (15 June) said that he and his client were informed by letter that Mr Lee’s lawyers — through Davinder Singh LLC — sought from the court an adjournment of the trial.
“We asked the Court for a hearing of the Prime Minister’s application for an adjournment to allow us to explore other possibilities than a full adjournment of a trial that has been scheduled for several months and whid is ready to proceed.
“The Court, however, immediately granted the Prime Minister’s application by letter without hearing oral argument,” said Mr Lim.
“Whilst we wish to express our sympathy for Mr Singh SC and wish him a full recovery, we do not believe his illness is a proper reason why the trial should have been adjourned,” he added, noting that the trial was already scheduled and “Affidavits of Evidence in Chief have been exchanged”.
Even parties and witnesses, including an expert witness, have all confirmed they are available, said Mr Lim.
Mr Lim also highlighted that the trial could still proceed in the absence of Mr Singh, as Mr Lee “has instructed three counsel”.
“Another leading counsel could have been instructed who would have had the assistance of the two counsel already instructed. Or one of those counsels, who have knowledge of the case, could have led for the Prime Minister,” he said.
Mr Lim argued that the adjournment is a means of allowing the “abuse of the process of the court” to “drag” on “probably until sometime in 2021”.
“This will be a period spanning 3 years in an area of law where plaintiffs are meant to seek speedy vindication and in circumstances where our client was not the author, editor or publisher of the words complained of and had deleted them before the writ had even been commenced,” he added while urging Mr Lee to consider dropping the “unjust” suit against Mr Leong.
Previously, Mr Lim on 9 June said that the hearing, which was originally set to take place from 6 July to 10 July, will be open to the public.
Responding to a commenter’s question on whether Mr Lee will be attending the court hearing, Mr Lim confirmed that the Prime Minister will be present at the said hearing.
The defamation suit concerns an article by shared by Mr Leong on his personal Facebook Timeline titled “Breaking News: Singapore Lee Hsien Loong Becomes 1MDB’s Key Investigation Target – Najib Signed Several Unfair Agreements with Hsien Loong In Exchange For Money Laundering” in November 2018.
The article, published by “Malaysian-based social news network” The Coverage, alleged that Mr Lee had entered “several unfair agreements” with Najib Razak, who was the Malaysian Prime Minister at the time the deals purportedly took place, “including the agreement to build the Singapore-Malaysia High-Speed Rail”, according to court documents.
Mr Leong did not include any accompanying text alongside the article at the time he shared the article.
TOC understands that Mr Singh is being treated for dengue fever.
A separate trial related to the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) case scheduled to be heard this Friday has been vacated.
While no reasons were given for moving the date of the hearing, it is likely that Mr Singh’s illness had led to the trial being vacated.
The AHTC court case involved three Workers’ Party (WP) Members of Parliament (MP) and the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) who were found guilty of breaching their duties as AHTC town councillors.
Sylvia Lim, Pritam Singh and Low Thia Khiang were accused by AHTC and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) of making over S$33 million in “improper” payments between 2011 and 2015 to FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), owned by “conflicted” parties How Weng Fan and her late husband Danny Loh.
Mr Davinder Singh represents PRPTC in the AHTC case in its claims to recover losses purportedly incurred when WP was managing the Punggol East constituency via the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).