Defamation suit: Two win damages against ex-club president

SINGAPORE - Two former management committee members of the Singapore Swimming Club (SSC) have each been awarded $50,000 in damages in a defamation suit against ousted president Freddie Koh.

The damages were awarded to Mr Gope Ramchand and Mr Gary Oon Hong Siang on Thursday by Deputy Registrar Constance Tay after an assessment hearing.

She also awarded them $20,000 in costs.

The duo were members of the management committee before Mr Koh assumed the post of president in 2008.

While in office, Mr Koh, 68, made defamatory remarks at two management committee meetings about a previous committee's decision to purchase a water filtration package for two Olympic-sized swimming pools.

In a separate action brought in 2009 by four other members of the previous committee, the Court of Appeal found Mr Koh liable for the same defamatory remarks and awarded $50,000 to each of them.

Mr Koh used about $1.5 million in club funds to defend the defamation suit brought by Mr Bernard Chan, Mr Robin Tan, Mr Nicholas Chong and Mr Michael Ho, which he lost.

In November 2011, the Court of Appeal found that he was conducting a "witch hunt", had an agenda of his own, and had acted with malice.

Mr Ramchand and Mr Oon, represented by Ms Chang Man Phing from WongPartnership, claimed Mr Koh's defamatory statements left them "embarrassed and humiliated", and caused "serious damage to their reputation and standing in the club".

In April, the hearing of the assessment of the two plaintiffs' claim went before Ms Tay in the State Courts when Mr Koh's lawyer R.S. Bajwa submitted nominal damages of $1.

Ms Chang argued that the damages should be the same as that awarded to the four previous committee members at $50,000 each.

Mr Koh was ousted as president at an extraordinary general meeting in March 2012.

Members had voted for him to repay all the legal expenses he incurred while defending the case.

A hearing of the club's suit to recover $1.5 million from Mr Koh has ended and judgment has been reserved.

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