Defamation suit by rifle association starts

It is suing gun club president for remarks made after shooting centre was closed

The Singapore Rifle Association (SRA) weighed in on recent discussions about fake news in kicking off its defamation suit against the Singapore Gun Club (SGC) supremo Michael Vaz Lorrain in the High Court yesterday.

SRA is seeking damages claiming he defamed it in remarks made after the National Shooting Centre in Old Choa Chu Kang Road was closed in February last year following a police probe.

Mr Vaz, who is president of both SGC and national body Singapore Shooting Association, vigorously denied the claims and urged the court to look at the context in which the words were used.

Drew & Napier lawyer Wendell Wong, in the opening remarks for SRA yesterday, said the "potential to cause harm and damage to a person or an organisation's reputation due to fake news is unparalleled".

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"SRA, with over 155 years of history in Singapore's shooting fraternity, finds itself in such a position in the present case," he added, pointing to the "widespread connectivity and ease of communication" online.

SRA alleged that Mr Vaz published two defamatory statements last year, the first circulated to SGC members via e-mail and the second on the SGC website, both of which were substantially similar.

Mr Vaz's lawyer Anthony Lee from Bih Li & Lee countered that the words used "in their natural and ordinary meaning" did not mean or were capable of bearing the meanings imputed in SRA's defamation claim.

IMPACT OF FAKE NEWS

The potential to cause harm and damage to a person or an organisation's reputation due to fake news is unparalleled. SRA, with over 155 years of history in Singapore's shooting fraternity, finds itself in such a position in the present case.

MR WENDELL WONG, Drew & Napier lawyer, in the opening remarks for SRA yesterday.

He said that the words did not refer to any improper conduct by SRA or blamed SRA "entirely" for the closure of the National Shooting Centre.

SportSG - the national sports governing body - had closed the shooting centre following an arms audit by the Police Licensing and Regulatory Department at the armouries of the SGC and the SRA. The police also seized a number of arms due to serious licensing irregularities.

Mr Vaz's lawyers pleaded defences of justification, fair comment and qualified privilege, if the words are found to be defamatory as alleged.

SRA chairman Eng Fook Hoong, Mr Vincent Pinto, executive director of the International Practical Shooting Confederation, and Mr Bayarsaikhan Munkhuu, secretary-general of the Mongolian Practical Shooting Federation, took the stand in court yesterday.

Hearing before Judicial Commissioner Pang Khang Chau continues today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2017, with the headline 'Defamation suit by rifle association starts'. Print Edition | Subscribe