Former MP settles lawsuit against Hainan clan members

Mr Sin had sued the three former officials of the Hainan Tan Clan Association for defaming him by saying he abused his position as an adviser.
Mr Sin had sued the three former officials of the Hainan Tan Clan Association for defaming him by saying he abused his position as an adviser.

After five days of hearing in the High Court, lawyer and former Member of Parliament Sin Boon Ann has settled his defamation suit against three former officials of the Hainan Tan Clan Association.

A joint statement from all four parties on Jan 20 said the lawsuit had arisen from an "unfortunate misunderstanding" of what Mr Sin had told the trio at a lunch meeting in June 2013.

"For the sake of our association and our fellow clansmen, all of us have decided to settle this matter amicably in the spirit of the association and on the mutual understanding that there are no winners and losers in this case," it said.

Mr Sin, 57, an honorary adviser to the association, had sued the trio for alleging that he had abused his position to push for his elder brother, Mr Sin Boon Wah, to become the association's president.

The defendants were past president Tan Boon Hai, 74; then president Tan Han Kwang, 82; and past vice-president Tan Khin Pang, 83.

The hearing into the case started on Jan 12. Last Wednesday, both sides reached a settlement.

Each side will bear its own costs. Mr Sin was represented by Senior Counsel Jimmy Yim and Mr Tan Hee Joek, and the defendants by Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan and Mr Tan Joo Seng.

The association, which has about 900 members, is a society for members of the Hainanese community with the surname Tan. Although anglicised differently, Mr Sin's surname shares the same character.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin and former MP Tan Boon Wan are also honorary advisers to the society.

The events that led to the defamation suit unfolded in the run-up to the December 2013 elections.

In June 2013, Mr Sin invited the trio for lunch to talk about leadership renewal. He suggested that the elders step down and form a council to guide a younger leadership.

Mr Tan Han Kwang and Mr Tan Boon Hai, who are related, have taken turns to be president since 2004.

The trio later said Mr Sin had told them that his elder brother was to be made president. Mr Sin Boon Wah, 63, belonged to the camp opposing the trio's faction.

Mr Sin contends they meant he had abused his position.

Eventually, the post of president went to Mr Tan Kia Kok, who is from Mr Sin Boon Wah's camp. He was reappointed in the recent elections last December, after the defendants' supporters staged a walkout.

Now, association members are hoping the dust will settle.

Retiree J. T. Tan told The Straits Times that the settlement was "a good result". "If one side loses, it will lead to resentment and further disharmony," said the 64-year-old.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline 'Former MP settles lawsuit against Hainan clan members'. Print Edition | Subscribe