Rifle group sues gun club president for defamation

SRA seeks damages for remarks over closure of shooting centre

The Singapore Rifle Association (SRA) is suing Mr Michael Vaz, a prominent figure in the local shooting scene, for alleged defamation, seeking damages for remarks made after the National Shooting Centre was closed following a police probe earlier this year.

In court papers filed on Tuesday, the rifle association said Mr Vaz, as president of the Singapore Gun Club (SGC), had issued two statements via e-mail and its website to club members in March which alleged that the association was to blame for the centre's closure, among other things.

SRA said the website announcement could have been accessed online by many users. The defamatory words were republished through a download link for a document posted in March on a public Facebook group, which remained accessible.

Mr Vaz is also president of the Singapore Shooting Association (SSA), the national authority for shooting.

His lawyers from Bih Li & Lee have given notice to defend against the suit.

Yesterday, Mr Vaz said: "I am contesting because I carried out my duty towards SGC members as president and I find it unconscionable that SRA should interfere with SGC affairs."

He claimed the closure of the shooting centre had caused "mass confusion" among members. "I carried out my duty as president and merely presented the facts as I saw them to give SGC members comfort that all was in order."

The suit against Mr Vaz follows another High Court suit filed by the rifle association last month against SSA for allegedly breaching the Constitution and attempting to suspend the rifle association's privileges - claims denied by SSA.

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

The High Court suit by SRA seeks damages, an injunction and costs from Mr Vaz. It follows his rejection of a demand letter issued last week by SRA's Drew & Napier lawyer Wendell Wong.

Mr Vaz, through lawyer Anthony Lee, countered that the statements referred to were "fair comment".

The fallout comes just ahead of the SGC's annual general meeting (AGM) tomorrow, where Mr Vaz is expected to face a challenge to his post as president.

He believes the suit was filed at this time to boost SRA-linked candidates running for key SGC posts. "My view is that if the members of SGC feel the person challenging me for president can do a better job, so be it," he said.

It is understood that there are SGC members who are concurrently SRA members and vice versa. An SRA spokesman said it is not involved in the AGM and that "the case is about due process".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2016, with the headline 'Rifle group sues gun club president for defamation'. Print Edition | Subscribe