Blogger Roy Ngerng to testify at hearing to assess damages in defamation suit

SINGAPORE - Blogger Roy Ngerng, who was found to have defamed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, will testify at a hearing to assess the amount of damages payable, said his lawyer M. Ravi today.

Mr Ravi also vehemently denied saying at a closed-door hearing on Monday that his client "did not want to be cross-examined" - as PM Lee's press secretary Chang Li Lin previously said in a statement.

Ms Chang, in the latest round of exchanges between the two on Wednesday, said: "Despite what Mr Ravi said in court, he has now publicly confirmed that Mr Ngerng is prepared to give evidence and to be cross-examined at the hearing to assess damages.

"The Prime Minister looks forward to that," she added.

In her statement on Tuesday, Ms Chang cited notes taken by law firm Drew & Napier, whose Senior Counsel Davinder Singh is representing PM Lee.

Mr Ravi today used the same notes to back up his own version of events, saying that the notes are "accurate, precise and complete as far as they go".

But Ms Chang said that Mr Ravi had, in using the notes, "carefully and selectively omitted his own words to the Court".

She pointed out that he did not cite the fact that he had told Justice Lee Seiu Kin on Monday: "Therefore, I won't be filing (an affidavit). Enough Your Honour, I won't be filing."

That, she said, was the "clearest admission of his indication to the Court that Mr Ngerng did not want to be cross-examined".

She had used this remark in an earlier statement on Tuesday to show that Mr Ravi made a "hasty U-turn", after Mr Singh said he would cross-examine Mr Ngerng if he gives evidence.

Mr Ravi said today that he had "moved swiftly to protect my client's right to have the final say (over whether to testify)... given the sudden display of fervour of my learned opponent to engage in cross-examination of my client".

He also said that the notes showed his indication that he would be taking instructions on whether Mr Ngerng would be giving evidence.

Justice Lee ruled in a summary judgment in November that Mr Ngerng had defamed PM Lee by suggesting that the Prime Minister had misappropriated Central Provident Fund savings.

At Monday's hearing, Mr Ngerng was ordered to pay PM Lee $29,000 in costs for legal fees and related expenses, with damages to be assessed later.

He also directed Mr Ravi to confirm by Jan 30 if Mr Ngerng would be giving evidence.

waltsim@sph.com.sg