Litigation not best answer to neighbours' dispute: Judge

Dr John Robertson Gillies, a resident of Camelot By-The-Water condo (left) for over 10 years, was known to be unhappy over residents being dropped off and picked up along the estate's driveway, as well as noise made by young children at the condo's s
Dr John Robertson Gillies, a resident of Camelot By-The-Water condo (above) for over 10 years, was known to be unhappy over residents being dropped off and picked up along the estate's driveway, as well as noise made by young children at the condo's swimming pool.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Camelot By-The-Water condo resident wins $5k in $100k defamation suit against another

A resident of Camelot By-The-Water condominium who sued another resident for $100,000 in damages for defamation was awarded $5,000.

Dr John Robertson Gillies had taken Dr Suresh Balan to court after a quarrel in June 2015 at the upscale Tanjong Rhu residential property where both have been living for over 10 years. The 99-unit development affords views of Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer.

In noting that the parties had allowed the dispute to escalate into a defamation suit, District Judge Chiah Kok Khun said in judgment grounds issued last Friday: "There are certainly better uses for the resources that a court case of this nature would entail. Moreover, it is unlikely that litigation would put an end to any of the underlying neighbourly issues behind the case."

Dr Gillies was known to have disagreements with residents and the condominium's management corporation (MC) over residents being dropped off and picked up along the estate's driveway.

There was also longstanding unhappiness with the noise made by young children at the condo's swimming pool, the judge noted.

The background was "alluded to" by resident Torbjorn Gunnar Karsson. The witness had provided the perspective of an MC member who had served for some 10 years.

The offending remarks were made on June 22, 2015 during a conversation involving Dr Gillies and Dr Balan. At a three-day hearing earlier this year, lawyers Eugene Thuraisingam and Suang Wijaya argued that Dr Gillies was defamed and sought damages, while Dr Balan's lawyers A.S. Shankar and Nicole Cheah disputed the claims.

NOT SO IDYLLIC

In the Arthurian world, Camelot represents a time, place or atmosphere of idyllic happiness. It is only when neighbourliness prevails, that there will be hope for Camelot By-The-Water to live up to its name.

DISTRICT JUDGE CHIAH KOK KHUN

The court found Dr Balan did make slanderous statements, which was witnessed by resident Catherine Solange, who has no history of dispute with Dr Balan. Dr Gillies' wife Gwen was also present when the statements were made.

But Judge Chiah noted that the reach of the defamatory statements was limited to only two people - Mrs Gillies and Ms Solange - and ruled the appropriate quantum would be $5,000.

The judge said Dr Gillies did not succeed in his claim of defamation over two other sets of statements that took place on June 24, 2015, one of which involved a police report made by Dr Balan.

"This completes the instalment of the ongoing neighbourly disputes at Camelot By-The-Water that was played out before me.

"As I have alluded at the beginning of this judgment, litigation is not the best answer to such disputes. The underlying neighbourly issues have to be first resolved.

"In the Arthurian world, Camelot represents a time, place or atmosphere of idyllic happiness. It is only when neighbourliness prevails, that there will be hope for Camelot By-The-Water to live up to its name," said Judge Chiah.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2017, with the headline 'Litigation not best answer to neighbours' dispute: Judge'. Print Edition | Subscribe