Friday, 3 July 2015

Hearing to assess damages Blogger must pay PM Lee

PM Lee's lawyers seek 'very high' damages in defamation case against Roy Ngerng
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arriving at court.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

The lawyers of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have asked the High Court for a very high award of damages in the defamation case against blogger Roy Ngerng, saying that Mr Ngerng's actions have been deeply and intensely malicious.

Mr Ngerng also remains determined to damage Mr Lee's reputation, the lawyers added in an opening statement submitted to the court on Wednesday, at the start of a three-day hearing.

Justice Lee Seiu Kin had ruled last November that Mr Ngerng, 34, defamed PM Lee in a blog post on his blog The Heart Truths on May 15 last year by suggesting the Prime Minister misappropriated Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings

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Suing a poor man
The intention of every plaintiff in a civil suit is to recover what he has lost. In the case of a defamation suit, he sues for compensation for loss of reputation in the eyes of third parties. This compensation may take the form of an apology and/or monetary payment. If a plaintiff demands monetary compensation, he is vindicated if he is awarded damages, which need not be a colossal sum but just a nominal sum

Civil litigation in Singapore is expensive. Commencing a law suit in the High Court entails a minimum court fee of $500. An application for summary judgement costs $500 and every affidavit attracts a minimum fee of $50 with each page of an exhibit incurring another $2. In addition, electronic filing fees with service charge have to be paid.


Everyone is entitled to sue if he feels aggrieved by someone. And anyone sued can defend himself if he feels that he is wronged. The court where one seeks justice is open to all and judges and all the court staff are paid by taxpayers. Accessibility to the courts is guaranteed to all who have the money to pay the required fees set out in the Rules of Court and electronic filing charges.

But court fees are not the only costs that one should consider before commencing an action. Lawyers too have to be paid unless they offer their services pro bono or free. And lawyers’ fees do not come cheap in Singapore. A litigant has to pay the lawyer he engages and if he loses his claim, he has also to pay the lawyers of his opponents. As can be seen in the case of PM Lee Hsien Loong vs Roy Ngerng, the latter was ordered to pay $29,000 to PM Lee’s lawyers when they won the application for summary judgement. In addition, Roy Ngerng has also to pay S$6,000 for an unsuccessful application for the admission of a Queen’s Counsel.

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Judge on why request for QC rejected
Mr Roy Ngerng (centre) was ordered to pay $6,000 to PM Lee for the unsuccessful bid to hire a QC.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Blogger Roy Ngerng's court case for defaming the Prime Minister may attract "popular" interest, but this did not make it one involving "public" interest.

The concepts are different, said Justice Steven Chong in decision grounds released yesterday on why he refused Mr Ngerng's request to hire a Queen's Counsel.


After a court ruled last November that he had defamed PM Lee Hsien Loong, the 34-year-old blogger applied for British QC Heather Rogers, an expert in defamation law, to represent him in a hearing to assess how much damages he has to pay.

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Damage done – but how much in dollars?

Amidst all that excitement about watching the Prime Minister on the stand, people might have forgotten what the issue in court today was all about: It’s about damages, or how much blogger Roy Ngerng should pay Mr Lee Hsien Loong for defaming him.

But judging from reports that have come out through the day on what happened in court, that wasn’t what Mr Ngerng seemed interested in. After apologising to the PM for defaming him, he proceeded to ask questions that looked as if he had already forgotten the apology as well as the court judgment which found him guilty.
(Or maybe, he didn’t apologise. This was what he said to the PM: “I’m actually glad I am meeting you for the first time today and I do sincerely apologise to you for any defamatory things that might have been said. So sorry” Hmm… “might’’ have been said?)
related:
Timeline of the Roy Ngerng saga
The Best of Roy vs PM Lee Day Two
Roy Ngerng damages hearing: lunchtime report

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Sorry No Cure?

This morning’s apology from blogger Roy Ngerng, posted on his blog:
I, Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, republish this apology on my blog, in recognition of having published Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Demand Letter to me, on my blog, which included links to the Article on my blog, links to the Article on my Facebook page and on The Heart Truths’ Facebook page, and links to the other websites as stated in Paragraph 11 of the Demand Letter. I have since removed the above-mentioned portions from the article where the Demand Letter can be found and have republished this apology on my blog again. As I had explained in court, I did not realise that there were links inside the Demand Letter which would lead to the Article, and the related links and republication. (The Article was published online from 15 May 2014 to 21 May 2014. The Demand Letter was published from 19 May 2014 henceforth.) It was never my intention to defame the Singapore Prime Minister and I hope that by voluntarily republishing this apology on my blog, that I can show my sincerity to the Singapore Prime Minister. Thank you.
The two days of hearing have all been about one word: Is blogger Roy Ngerng really sorry that he defamed the Prime Minister? That was a big plank of Senior Counsel Davinder Singh’s cross-examination during the hearing to determine the amount of damages Mr Ngerng should pay the PM.

Mr Singh said that despite several apologies tendered since he posted on his blog last May implying that the PM was a thief and a liar who played punk with the people’s CPF funds, his actions did not bear out his contrition. The lawyer put Mr Ngerng’s sincerity under the spotlight, a critical point which could determine the size of compensation.

related:

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Blogger Roy Ngerng breaks down twice in intense grilling by Davinder Singh as damages hearing concludes
Ngerng emerged visibly downcast at the end of a gruelling one and a half days of grilling in court

The cross-examination of CPF blogger Roy Ngerng in the hearing to determine damages to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong continued in the High Court on Friday, and at points got so intense that Ngerng broke down twice while on the stand.

Ngerng was reduced to tears when Senior Counsel Davinder Singh grilled him about his limited financial means; and also earlier Friday morning in court, when Singh pressed Ngerng after the latter said he would be silenced after the case concludes.

Singh, who is representing Lee, had argued that despite the blogger’s limited financial means and sincerity in his apology, he had chosen to introduce amicus (friend of the court) briefs from foreign organisations to “put pressure on this court”, instead of stopping his aggravation. 

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Ngerng out to hurt PM, twist the knife: Davinder Singh
Roy Ngerng emerges from the Supreme Court to camera flashes and questions from the media after the first day spent cross-examining PM Lee Hsien Loong

Blogger Roy Ngerng spent Thursday in the witness box as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s lawyer Davinder Singh carried out a precise, methodical cross-examination, claiming that Ngerng’s expressions of remorse and apology were “false”.

It was the second gruelling day of cross-examinations in the hearing to assess the amount of damages to be paid to PM Lee. Ngerng had spent Wednesday subjecting the Prime Minister himself to seven hours of questioning.

Ngerng once again insisted that he had never had any intention to defame the PM by suggesting that he had personally criminally misappropriated monies from the Central Provident Fund (CPF), and that it was the government – not Lee himself – that he was criticising over the management of the CPF.


$10,000 compensation offer “unrealistic”: Lee Hsien Loong
Mr Lee Hsien Loong had deemed an offer of S$10,000 compensation from blogger Roy Ngerng as “unrealistic”, according to a report in the Straits Times on 2 July 2015

Mr Lee, who is also the Prime Minister of Singapore, had successfully sued Mr Ngerng for defamation with regards to a blog post the latter had published in May last year.

Mr Lee had claimed that the blog post had defamed him in comparing his management of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) to that of the City Harvest Church which is also currently embroiled in a court trial over the alleged misuse of church funds.

Mr Ngerng had made a first offer of S$5,000 compensation to Mr Lee last year. Mr Lee called it “derisory”.


PM Lee Hsien Loong seek “very high” damages from CPF blogger Roy Ngerng

The lawyers representing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong are seeking for “very high” damages from CPF blogger Roy Ngerng from the court, saying the blog post was “deeply and intensely malicious”.

CPF blogger Roy Ngerng was convicted for defaming the Prime Minister without a trial and the damages to compensate the most well-paid Prime Minister are now awaiting determination from the court.

The PM’s lawyers are senior counsels while Roy Ngerng is unrepresented in court yesterday (July 1) because the latter’s lawyer was put out of practice for having “an unsound mind” by the Law Society. Senior counsels for the PM quoted the previous defamation judgments where damages range between S$100,000 and S$250,000.
  • “From the very first, the defendant set out to wound. He knowingly and maliciously published a false and vicious libel against the plaintiff to inflict maximum injury. He then cynically capitalised on, and continues to exploit, that libel and the ensuing lawsuit to promote himself as a champion of free speech.
  • …express, in strongest terms, its indignation at Mr Ngerng’s conduct.
  • The case for a very high award of damages, including aggravated damages, is compelling”

PM Lee to Roy Ngerng: “We are not here to play games”
Ngerng was representing himself after having discharged his previous counsel George Hwang, who he described to The Online Citizen as having been “excellent.”

Blogger Roy Ngerng and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong traded barbs in court on Wednesday, with the latter getting increasingly and visibly exasperated by Ngerng’s long list of questions during over seven hours of cross-examination.

Lee took the stand on the first day of a scheduled three-day court hearing to determine the amount of damages that Ngerng will be ordered to pay after the court found in November 2014 that Ngerng had defamed Lee by implying that he had misappropriated money from the Central Provident Fund (CPF).

While Lee’s lawyers asserted that they had a “compelling” case for a “very high award of damages”, Ngerng’s opening statement submitted that “awarding a disproportionately high amount of damages… would cast a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Singapore.”


LEE HSIEN LOONG HAMMERED WITH QUESTIONS ON AMOS YEE AND ROY NGERNG DURING DIALOGUE ON SG50

Although the dialogue was meant to be about SG50 and Singapore's future, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong found himself receiving a barrage of questions relating to freedom of speech and the pending cases of bloggers teenager Amos Yee and activist Roy Ngerng. 



Aside from questions asked about Singapore's relationship with China and the United states, racial and religious harmony, terrorism, and ASEAN issues, questions from the floor went mostly to Lee's ongoing defamation suit against Ngerng and the criminal case against Yee.

Mr Lee was taking questions from CNN host and The Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria at a one-hour session. The session was part of the “Singapore at 50: What Lies Ahead?” conference organised by the Institute of Policy Studies and which continues today.


Tharman: Kids should speak up and have their own mind

With regard to the defamation suit against blogger Roy Ngerng, the moderator felt that Mr Lee should have ignored Roy, saying, “Look at what people call Barack Obama on the Internet. It would have made your blood curdle.”

In other words, President Obama never bothers suing American voters for calling him names or accusing him of all sorts of things.

When questions were thrown open to the floor, medical professor Paul Tambyah revisited Roy Ngerng and Amos Yee’s cases. With the government’s focus seemingly shifting to “minor players, such as a rude and insensitive teenager … (and) the son of a chai tow kway seller who wrote 400 blog articles”, will there be more space for diverse views in the future, asked Dr Tambyah.

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TENSE EXCHANGE AS ROY IS CROSS-EXAMINED BY DAVINDER SINGH

A tense cross-examination of CPF blogger Roy Ngerng unfolded in the Supreme Court building on Thursday, during day two of the hearing to determine damages the blogger has to pay Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for defamatory remarks.

The public gallery was nearly full, as Senior Counsel Davinder Singh led the cross-examination by building a case against the blogger regarding his intent to defame the prime minister.

At one point, Singh asked Ngerng if he was aware that sensationalising his blog post was one way to generate greater interest on the Central Provident Fund issue.
“I am aware that people can do that in general,” Ngerng said, adding that it was not something that he did regarding the offending article.
related:


LEE HSIEN LOONG CALLS ROY NGERNG'S $10,000 OFFER TO SETTLE DAMAGES DERISORY
At the start of the three day hearing to assess damages, blogger Roy Ngerng took the initiative to apologise to Lee Hsien Loong. He said: "I am sorry. I had no intent to defame you". But the apology was rebuffed by PM Lee who said that the apology was "not sincere" and "the record contradicts that".

When Ngerng had the opportunity to cross-examine PM Lee on whether the facts cited in the offending blogpost were true, Lee replied that "the quotes are factual but the article on your blog is not." He added further that "we're not here to play games. There's no point going through it again other than to aggravate damages".

The Courts also heard that on 30 May 2015, Ngerng had offered to settle the damages for a sum of S$10,000 but his was rejected by PM Lee as "derisory", due to a series of posts published recently claiming he was being persecuted by PM Lee and the Singapore judiciary.


Roy Ngerng Employed 3 Tai Chi Defence Tactics Against PM Lee’s Lawyer
Roy Ngerng’s Un-Un-Un-Un-Unbreakable Defence Against Davinder Singh

The court case between Roy Ngerng and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has entered the second day. Yesterday, Roy Ngerng grilled Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the the defamation lawsuit. Today (2 July), the tables were turned as Roy Ngerng was cross-examined by PM Lee’s lawyer, Davinder Singh.

Ngerng employed 3 defence tactics to swat away against Mr Singh’s burning questions.
MustShareNews analyses Ngerng’s 3 defence tactics.
  • Tactic #1 – Claiming ignorance in the face of danger
  • Tactic #2 – Proclaim your admiration for your enemy
  • Tactic #3 – Staying Humble

PM Lee Cross Examined By Roy Ngerng For 3 Gruelling Hours

PM Lee gamely accepted the challenge to be cross-examined by Ngerng. Ngerng has no form of legal training and was guided by Justice Lee Seiu Kin, the judge for the case.

The entire cross examination resembled a boxing match between the two traded blows across the court room.

MustShareNews brings you the key highlights of the “boxing match” of Lee Vs Ngerng at the Supreme Court.
Ngerng Cross-Examining Lee At The Supreme Court Was More Exciting Than Mayweather Vs Pacquiao


This was how Senior Counsel Davinder Singh tore blogger Roy Ngerng a new one in 3-hour cross-examination

In a cold, methodical and merciless fashion, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, acting on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, took apart blogger Roy Ngerng bit by bit in a three-hour morning cross-examination session on day two of the hearing Thursday.

About half of the 60-odd audience seated in the public gallery to watch the proceedings were probably young lawyers wanting to catch a glimpse of the senior counsel at work. And the so-called cordial exchange Ngerng experienced when he cross-examined PM Lee on the stand on day one was not replicated: Within the first 15 minutes of questioning, it was evident Singh was really getting down to business and by the end of the marathon session, the exchange had turned feisty.

The presiding judge Justice Lee Seiu Kin had to interject on at least two occasions in the morning session to remind Ngerng of his duty to reply to all relevant questions put forth by the senior counsel.


Questions Roy Ngerng asked PM Lee Hsien Loong during 7-hour cross-examination

If you had Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as a captive — and responsive — audience for an entire day, what questions would you ask him?

Singaporean blogger Roy Ngerng is probably one of the first non-lawyers to get this opportunity, representing himself in the three-day hearing to determine the six-figure sum that he will have to fork out to Lee for defamation. Civil cases heard at the High Court have a claim value of at least $250,000. On Wednesday, we brought you a layman’s account of events.

We now bring you some of the hundreds of questions Ngerng posed to him, compiled from our reporter on the ground and also reports in The Straits Times and The Middle Ground:


Roy: Mr Lee didn’t suffer lower standing due to my articles

During yesterday’s (1 Jul) court hearing to determine the amount of defamatory damages payable to PM Lee Hsien Loong in his personal capacity by blogger Roy Ngerng, Mr Lee’s lawyers from Drew and Napier called for “a very high award of damages” to Mr Lee (‘PM wants ‘a very high award of damages’ from Roy‘).

The lawyers said this is on account of Roy’s “malice and continuing attacks”. The lawyers noted that previous awards in defamation cases involving government ministers have ranged from $100,000 to $400,000. They recommended that a higher quantum be awarded in the present case.

They argued that Roy’s allegation of “misappropriation” undermines Mr Lee’s ability to “lead the country, sustain the confidence of the electorate and discharge his functions as Prime Minister and Chairman of GIC”.
“The defendant’s allegations, unless challenged head-on, demolished in a court of law and met with a substantial award of damages, would seriously erode the plaintiff’s reputation and moral authority,” the lawyers said.

Has PM Lee been damaged in his private capacity?

More importantly has he damaged Singapore as the PM? Lee Hsien Loong and his lawyers were in court today at the beginning of the hearing to determine what damages Roy Ngerng had to pay him (see the report from the State media here).

The lawyers said that:
“It is therefore an extremely serious matter for the defendant to accuse the plaintiff of criminally misappropriating the monies paid by Singaporeans to the CPF.”
“Such an allegation undermines the plaintiff’s ability to lead the country, sustain the confidence of the electorate and to discharge his functions as Prime Minister and chairman of GIC.”
They concluded:
“The case for a very high award of damages, including aggravated damages, is compelling”
However, is it?

PM to Roy: I’ve been watching your blog

Before PM Lee Hsien Loong filed his defamation lawsuit against blogger Roy Ngerng in May last year, Roy was hardly known worldwide, let alone Singapore. Thanks to Mr Lee’s lawsuit, Roy has become a household name, remembered by almost everyone in Singapore.

Apparently, in the court hearing on Wednesday (1 Jul), it was revealed that Mr Lee was already “watching” Roy’s blog before he became “famous”.

This was revealed in an exchange between Mr Lee and Roy in court on Wednesday.


$10K compensation offer ‘unrealistic’: Lee Hsien Loong

Mr Lee Hsien Loong had deemed an offer of S$10,000 compensation from blogger Roy Ngerng as “unrealistic”, according to a report in the Straits Times on 2 July 2015.

Mr Lee, who is also the Prime Minister of Singapore, had successfully sued Mr Ngerng for defamation with regards to a blog post the latter had published in May last year. Mr Lee had claimed that the blog post had defamed him in comparing his management of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) to that of the City Harvest Church which is also currently embroiled in a court trial over the alleged misuse of church funds.

Mr Ngerng had made a first offer of S$5,000 compensation to Mr Lee last year. Mr Lee called it “derisory”.


Blogger asked to remove defamatory post about PM Lee
Blogger Roy Ngerng has issued another apology to PM Lee on his blog just after midnight on Friday.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Blogger Roy Ngerng, who has been found to have defamed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, issued another apology to PM Lee on his blog just after midnight on Friday.

This apology came hours after a heated court hearing to assess damages Mr Ngerng has to pay Mr Lee, during which Mr Lee's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, pointed out that Mr Ngerng's act of republishing a letter of demand on his blog had amounted to perpetrating the defamatory content.

This was because the letter had included phrases from the libellous article, as well as hyperlinks to third-party websites on which the article was reproduced in its entirety.


Full Coverage:
Straits Times: Exchanges in court


The Heart Truths of Libel Suits
– TOC: Ngerng out to hurt PM, twist the knife: Davinder Singh
– The Middle Ground: Sorry no cure?
– My Singapore News: Did Roy damage Hsien Loong’s reputation?
– The Ricebowl Spore: Has Lee Hsien Loong been damaged in his private capacity?
– Five Stars and a Moon: The Emperor’s New Clothes
– SG Hard Truth: Blogger’s 3 Points Tells U Who Won Who Lost In Roy Defamation
– Mothership: This was how Senior Counsel Davinder Singh tore blogger Roy Ngerng
– MSN: Roy Ngerng Employed 3 Tai Chi Defence Tactics Against PM Lee’s Lawyer

– TOC: PM Lee to Roy Ngerng: “We are not here to play games”
– The Middle Ground: Damage done – but how much in dollars?
– Five Stars and a Moon: Say No to Childish Politics
– Likedatosocanmeh: ‘Servants can bankrupt citizens’ system must go