Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan have filed a defamation lawsuit against Mr. Lee Hsien Yang over allegations related to their rental of two black-and-white bungalows at Ridout Road.
According to CNA, a case conference is scheduled for Tuesday, September 5th, at 9 am, according to the Singapore Courts’ website. The ministers are represented by a legal team from Davinder Singh Chambers.
This legal action follows lawyers’ letters sent by Mr. Shanmugam and Dr. Balakrishnan to Mr. Lee in July, in which they demanded an apology, the withdrawal of his allegations, and compensation for damages.
In a Facebook post on July 27th, Mr. Shanmugam accused Mr. Lee of alleging that he and Dr. Balakrishnan had “acted corruptly and for personal gain by having Singapore Land Authority (SLA) give us preferential treatment by illegally felling trees without approval, and also having SLA pay for renovations to 26 and 31 Ridout Road.”
Full Statement of Shanmugam :
[Defamatory statements by Lee Hsien Yang]
Minister Vivian and I have today sent lawyers’ letters to Lee Hsien Yang for defaming us.
Lee Hsien Yang has accused us of acting corruptly and for personal gain by having Singapore Land Authority (“SLA”) give us preferential treatment by illegally felling trees without approval, and also having SLA pay for renovations to 26 and 31 Ridout Road. These allegations are false.
We have asked him to apologise, withdraw his allegations and pay damages, which we will donate to charity.
If he does not do so, we will sue him.
Mr. Shanmugam strongly denied these allegations, asserting their falseness.Facebook
Mr. Lee Hsien Yang, the younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is currently residing outside Singapore. He and his wife left the country after declining to attend a police interview in July 2022 regarding allegations of lying in judicial proceedings concerning the will of their late father and founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
The Ridout Road controversy came to public attention in May when opposition politician and Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam questioned whether the ministers were paying below-market rates for the bungalows.
The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) conducted an investigation into possible misconduct related to the transactions and found no wrongdoing.
The CPIB report, released on June 28th, concluded that the two ministers did not receive privileged information, were not given preferential treatment, and their rental rates were comparable to those of neighboring properties.
The matter was subsequently debated in Parliament on July 3rd, with Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean reiterating that Mr. Shanmugam and Dr. Balakrishnan had conducted themselves properly in the rental transactions and had taken appropriate steps to avoid conflicts of interest.
Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong explained in Parliament why some trees within the Ridout Road properties were felled during the debate.
Despite the official findings and statements, Mr. Lee Hsien Yang continued to post on Ridout Road-related matters on Facebook.
In response to the ministers’ demand for a public apology, Lee Hsien Yang argues against the request, stating that the statements were accurate and refuses to make a false apology.
Ministers Shan and Vivian are demanding that I lie in a public apology. They insist that I make this statement: “I recognise that the Post meant and was understood to mean that Mr K Shamugam/Dr Vivian Balakrishnan acted corruptly and for personal gain by having the Singapore Land Authority give him preferential treatment by felling trees without approval and illegally and having it pay for renovations to 31 Ridout Road.”
This is what I said: “Two ministers have leased state-owned mansions from the agency that one of them controls, felling trees and getting state-sponsored renovations.”
Anyone who can read can see that Ministers Shan and Vivian are demanding a false apology, for statements that are just not there. No Singaporean should have to lie to avoid lawsuits.Facebook
A post on July 23rd led to a correction direction under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act. The Ministry of Law stated that the post contained untrue statements. While Mr. Lee complied with the correction notice requirement, he also published a new post two days later, reaffirming his previous statements.
I stand by what I said. The POFMA notice is misleading. Read my actual post and compare what was said to what the notice claims I said.
Ridout Gate was scandalous enough to warrant CPIB being called in.
Did Shanmugam and Vivian rent SLA mansions? Yes
Did they rent them from the agency that Shanmugam controls? Yes.
Were many trees cleared from these plots? Yes.
Was significant money paid by the government to renovate these properties? Yes.
In light of the many scandals, has Lee Hsien Loong’s government lost your trust?Facebook
In response to Mr. Shanmugam and Dr. Balakrishnan’s threat to sue, Mr. Lee stated in a Facebook post on July 29th that the ministers were “wrong” about his statements. He suggested that if they believed they had a legitimate case, they should sue him in the United Kingdom, where he was at the time.
According to Legal experts, despite being overseas, Mr. Lee can still be sued in Singapore, as long as the Singapore court is deemed the “appropriate forum” to hear the matter.
Lawyers also indicated that if a lawsuit were filed, Mr. Lee might need to return to Singapore to testify, unless the court allowed him to testify via video link.
Failure to obtain permission to testify via video link or return to Singapore for evidence could increase the likelihood of Mr. Lee losing the case.
If he loses and fails to comply with the court’s order to pay damages, it could result in the seizure and sale of his local assets, and potentially even bankruptcy. Legal experts have also suggested that if Mr. Lee has foreign assets, there are means to seek damages through them.
The defamation lawsuit against Mr. Lee Hsien Yang adds another layer of complexity to the ongoing legal and public saga surrounding the Ridout Road allegations. The case conference on September 5th will mark the next significant development in this high-profile dispute.
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