PM Lee rejects blogger's offer of $5,000 as damages

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has rejected blogger Roy Ngerng's offer of $5,000 as damages, his lawyer Davinder Singh said in a letter to Mr Ngerng's lawyer on Tuesday.

This offer is "derisory" and "completely disregards" the gravity of Mr Ngerng's conduct, the undisputed fact that the libel - that PM Lee misapproriated CPF funds - is false and malicious, and Mr Ngerng's "calculated and systematic aggravation of the injury and distress" to Mr Lee, Mr Singh wrote.

"It is clear that your client has always known that the allegation of criminal misappropriation against our client is false, but chose nonetheless to publish it in a sensational manner, so as to raise his public profile and to gain support."

Mr Singh again raised the point that Mr Ngerng's apology, posted on May 23, was completely insincere and "designed to mislead our client and the public", adding that Mr Ngerng had "another agenda".

"He always intended to and did opportunistically use the occasion of our client's lawful and legitimate demand to raise his public profile, garner support and sympathy and renew his attack against our client," said Mr Singh.

Mr Ngerng had "pursued a course which was designed to aggravate the injury and distress to our client" by publishing or republishing various posts and YouTube video. He also repeated the libel, went back on his apology, and broke his undertaking, said Mr Singh.

As a result, Mr Lee "became entitled to recover aggravated damages".

Mr Lee had on Monday offered to waive aggravated damages if Mr Ngerng removed four blog posts and a Youtube video and undertook not to publish similar posts or videos. Mr Ngerng agreed.

But instead of removing the video, Mr Ngerng made it private. He also sent two e-mails out republishing the video and offending posts.

"He therefore has only himself to blame for losing the opportunity of not having to pay aggravated damages," said Mr Singh.

Mr Singh had earlier asked Mr Ngerng's lawyer M. Ravi to explain "in view of the gravity of this matter" and "without prejudice" to Mr Lee's rights, whether he knew about the non-removal of the YouTube video and e-mails.

In his response obtained by The Straits Times, Mr Ravi said he had no prior knowledge of the two e-mails and has advised Mr Ngerng to desist from any action that will aggravate injury and distress to Mr Lee.

He added that his client "sincerely and unreservedly apologises for his momentary lapse of judgement".

Mr Singh said that Mr Ngerng's explanation that it was a "momentary lapse of judgement" was "disingenous and incredible".

Mr Lee had been prepared to forego "a substantial amount of the damages that he was entitled to" if Mr Ngerng had "behaved honourably", said Mr Singh. Instead, Mr Ngerng had used the opportunity to "promote himself".

Mr Singh also said Mr Ngerng has not only misled the public and Mr Lee, but has also not come clean to Mr Ravi.

Mr Ravi is to let Mr Singh know by 5 pm on Wednesday if if he has instructions to and will accept service of process on Mr Ngerng's behalf, the letter concluded.