Blogger Leong Sze Hian to appeal High Court judgment dismissing his counterclaim in defamation suit filed by PM Lee

   PM Lee initiated legal action against Mr Leong Sze Hian in December, after Mr Leong shared on Facebook part of the headline of an article from Malaysian news portal The Coverage, with a link to the full article.
PM Lee initiated legal action against Mr Leong Sze Hian in December, after Mr Leong shared on Facebook part of the headline of an article from Malaysian news portal The Coverage, with a link to the full article.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - Blogger Leong Sze Hian will appeal a High Court judgment that dismissed his counterclaim in a libel suit brought against him by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In a written judgment issued last week, Justice Aedit Abdullah had struck out Mr Leong's counterclaim that the defamation suit is an abuse of court process, saying the legal basis it was premised on did not exist.

The Court of Appeal had ruled in an earlier case that the abuse of court process is not recognised in Singapore law.

Mr Leong's lawyer Lim Tean said in a statement on Tuesday (March 19) that in striking out the counterclaim, the High Court was bound by the earlier apex court ruling which "sets down a blanket rule that there is no tort of abuse of process and providing for no exceptions".

But there are "good arguments" for why the current case should be distinguished from the previous case, said Mr Lim, who is from Carson Law Chambers.

He added that recognising the abuse of court process is "especially important to safeguard freedom of expression".

PM Lee had initiated legal action against Mr Leong in December, after Mr Leong shared on Facebook part of the headline of an article from Malaysian news portal The Coverage, with a link to the full article.

It was titled "Breaking News: Singapore Lee Hsien Loong Becomes 1MDB's Key Investigation Target - Najib Signed Several Unfair Agreements With Hsien Loong In Exchange For Money Laundering."

The article alleged that former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak had signed "secret deals" with PM Lee in exchange for Singapore banks' help in laundering money from 1MDB.

PM Lee's lawyers said the article's allegations were "false and baseless", and it was clear Mr Leong had published the post "maliciously and to damage our client".

 
 
 

Mr Leong had filed an application to strike out the defamation suit, which Justice Aedit also dismissed in the same written judgment.

Addressing Justice Aedit's decision to uphold PM Lee's claim against Mr Leong, Mr Lim said that there could have been "no damage caused by the few people that read the post".

He added that Mr Leong will still be able to rely on the argument that PM Lee's claim is an abuse of process as a defence at trial.

"Our client does not assert what the article was alleged to have said was true," he added. "He will challenge the Prime Minister's case on meaning, extent of publication, on re-publication and malice".

Justice Aedit had awarded costs for both applications to PM Lee.

On Monday (March 18), Mr Leong posted on Facebook a letter he received from PM Lee's lawyers at Davinder Singh Chambers last Thursday, which instructed him to pay $21,000 for the legal costs incurred in both applications.

The letter stated that Mr Leong had to pay the full sum by 5pm on Thursday (March 21).