The crowdfunding campaign of veteran blogger Leong Sze Hian, who was ordered by the High Court to pay S$133,000 in damages plus costs to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after losing the latter’s libel suit against him, has surpassed the S$100,000 mark in seven days.
TOC understands that Mr Leong has raised S$104,255 as of Thursday (1 Apr).
Mr Leong’s lawyer, Lim Tean said in an earlier Facebook post that many Singaporeans have contacted him, saying that they are waiting for their monthly salary to contribute to Mr Leong’s crowdfund.
“Can you imagine the impact when 100% of damages are paid for by the People of Singapore?!
“What a powerful message to Lee Hsien Loong and the PAP party,” said Mr Lim.
In another post yesterday, Mr Lim said that the progress of the fundraiser has demonstrated Singaporeans’ capacity to not “bow down when we see injustice” despite restrictions on protesting.
“In Singapore, we do not have Freedom of Speech, we are not allowed to protest, not even a protest of just One person! However, that does not mean we bow down when we see injustice,” he said.
“Thousands of Singaporeans have expressed dismay, anger or sadness as they watched our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong sue 1 Singaporean man in his 60’s for sharing a Facebook post. A post which was shared over 9,000 times, originating from a Malaysian news source and a post he shared with no comment attached,” Mr Lim added.
He noted that in just several days, Mr Leong had managed to raise 70 per cent of the S$133,000 damages as a result of the collective efforts of those who donated.
“Please keep the contributions coming in and stand behind Leong Sze Hian to send the powerful message to the PM that we Singaporeans stand in harmony and peace and we respectfully protest with our contributions that We Do Not Agree!” said Mr Lim.
Previously on Sunday, Mr Leong expressed his gratitude to those who have contributed to the crowdfunding initiative.
He shared what he perceived to be the most heartfelt, “teary” message he had received in the process.
Mr Leong quoted the individual as saying: “I am a common citizen, who is poor, jobless and had not earned a single cent for the whole of last year. I will still support you to bring right justice to my beloved country. God is on your side.”
Earlier, Mr Leong said that he will be in consultation with his legal advisers on whether to appeal against the judgement.
“Once again, thanks for all the support and well wishes from the members of public over this span of 2 years and 4 months,” he said.
Separately, Mr Leong’s lawyer, Lim Tean announced that members and volunteers of his political party People’s Voice “are coming up with ways to help” Mr Leong crowdfund to cover the damages ordered against him.
“I am delighted with my team’s idea of selling signed copies of the sketch depicting myself cross-examining the Prime Minister, which I did extensively during the trial. Peoples Voice commissioned the sketch to be drawn many months ago,” he said.
Stating that the trial “will go down in Singapore’s history and also in world history”, Mr Lim urged those who have the means to consider purchasing a copy of the sketch in support of the crowdfunding efforts.
“I will personally write your name and your supportive message on the copy and sign it,” said Mr Lim.
Each copy will be priced at S$133 to commemorate the damages ordered by the High Court against Mr Leong. Payment is made directly to Mr Leong.
Those interested to purchase a copy of the sketch may send an email to [email protected] or message via WhatsApp or Telegram at 9398 0289.
Those who would like to donate to Mr Leong’s crowdfunding efforts may do so using the following details:
Account name: Leong Sze Hian
POSB Savings: 064064070
PayPal: [email protected]
Background of the Lee Hsien Loong vs Leong Sze Hian case
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”.
The article, published by “Malaysian-based social news network” The Coverage, alleged that PM 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.
It is noted in Mr Leong’s submissions that he did not include any accompanying text alongside the article at the time he shared the article on 7 November 2018.
Mr Leong took down the article at 7.30am on 10 November 2018 after being instructed by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) to do so a day prior.
Prior to his removal of the post on 10 November, the court noted that Mr Leong’s article had garnered “22 ‘reactions’, five ‘comments’, and 18 ‘shares’”.
A writ of summons was subsequently filed by PM Lee against Mr Leong on 20 November that year for defamation, on the grounds that the offending article created the “false and baseless” impression that PM Lee had misused his position as Prime Minister to assist Najib’s money laundering activities in relation to 1MDB’s funds, and subsequently insinuated that PM Lee was “complicit in criminal activity” relating to the Malaysian state fund.
Justice Aedit Abdullah on Wednesday found that the defamatory statement in the article shared by Mr Leong was worse compared to allegations made in blogger Roy Ngerng’s case.
The judge, therefore, decided to award S$100,000 in general damages to PM Lee despite the lower reach and S$33,000 for aggravated damages.