Blogger Roy Ngerng says in his defence that PM's claim for damages is unwarranted

Blogger Roy Ngerng at the protest called "Return Our CPF!" at Hong Lim Park on June 7, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Blogger Roy Ngerng at the protest called "Return Our CPF!" at Hong Lim Park on June 7, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Blogger Roy Ngerng has responded to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's statement of claim in an ongoing defamation suit, saying Mr Lee's claim for damages and legal costs is unnecessary and unwarranted.

Mr Ngerng is being sued for defamation for alleging in a May 15 blogpost that Mr Lee - who is also chairman of state investment firm GIC - criminally misappropriated Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings.

Mr Lee's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, had on May 29 filed a statement of claim against the blogger.

On Tuesday, Mr Ngerng's lawyer M Ravi filed his defence in court stating that Mr Ngerng never intended to accuse Mr Lee of criminal misappropriation of CPF funds.

Mr Ngerng had also made plain privately and in public that such an allegation was "false and without foundation", Mr Ravi said.

In a letter of demand to Mr Ngerng on May 18, Mr Lee demanded that the blogger immediately remove the May 15 blogpost, publicly apologise to the PM and write in with an offer of damages and costs.

Mr Ngerng acceded to these demands, taking down the post a day after the letter, and apologising publicly on May 23. He at first asked for damages against him to be dropped, but when this appeal was rejected, made an offer of $5,000 as compensation.

Mr Lee, however, turned this down, dismissing it as "derisory", and asked for aggravated damages after Mr Ngerng failed to remove a YouTube video and sent e-mails to local and international media republishing posts he had promised to take down.

In the legal defence filed on Tuesday and which Mr Ravi released to the media, Mr Ravi wrote that Mr Lee is not entitled to aggravated damages as that was up to the court to decide, and if Mr Lee felt his standing had been aversely affected by the allegation, he needed to prove so.

After Mr Ngerng had acceded to all Mr Lee's requests, Mr Lee's rejection of his offer of $5,000 in damages appeared to Mr Ngerng to be a case of the Prime Minister "seeking... to prevent him from expressing his views on the CPF and to impose an unwarranted and unneccessary restriction upon his constitutional right, as a citizen of Singapore, to freedom of speech and expression", wrote Mr Ravi.

"In all circumstances of this case, to pursue a claim against (Mr Ngerng) for damages (including aggravated damages) and legal costs is unnecessary and unwarranted," Mr Ravi added.

If Mr Lee provides more details to support his claim for aggravated damages, Mr Ngerng reserves his right to respond further, Mr Ravi wrote.

Mr Lee had also in his statement of claim asked for an injunction to stop Mr Ngerng from further defaming him. There is no basis for such a claim, said Mr Ravi.

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