Soh switches legal counsel

He reverts to Eugene Thuraisingam after losing two of three High Court appeals

Singapore's top marathoner Soh Rui Yong has announced a change in his legal counsel, just a month before the June 6 resumption of the ongoing defamation suit filed against him by former national teammate Ashley Liew.

On his social media accounts on Saturday, Soh said that Eugene Thuraisingam and Chooi Jing Yen of Eugene Thuraisingam LLP - the firm that had represented him at the start of the case - will take over from Clarence Lun of Fervent Chambers LLP, as his lead counsel.

Soh told The Straits Times that Lun will no longer be involved in the defamation suit, although the lawyer is representing him in a separate defamation suit he had filed against former Singapore Athletics executive director Malik Aljunied.

The announcement came a day after the High Court dismissed two of three appeals Soh, 29, had made related to the suit. He was also ordered to pay Liew, 33, costs amounting to $10,000.

One of the two dismissed appeals was against the January dismissal of an application for District Judge Lee Li Choon to recuse herself from the case because of alleged bias. Soh explained in his announcement that this was a factor in his decision for a change in lawyers.

"I felt this was the best option moving forward... and hopefully this will streamline legal processes moving forward," he said.

In her written judgment on Friday on the three appeals Soh had filed, Justice Valerie Thean noted that Soh's application to replace District Judge Lee required a finding of apparent bias "in the context of the entirety of proceedings".

"Having considered the list of complaints, I found that no objective bystander would have perceived any apparent bias," she said.

Justice Thean also warned that "serious consequences" may follow if future allegations of judicial bias were found to be "unmeritorious".

On Friday's High Court ruling, Soh said he respected its decision.

The dispute between the two athletes began in October 2018, when Soh, in a Facebook post, disputed Liew's account of an incident that occurred during the 2015 SEA Games marathon race that Soh had won.

Liew, a chiropractor, said he had slowed down to allow other runners to catch up after they missed a U-turn and took the wrong path. He later received two awards for his act of sportsmanship and praise from Cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his 2015 National Day Rally.

Liew is accusing Soh of defaming him in five instances via comments made on social media and is seeking damages, to be assessed, of up to a maximum of $250,000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2021, with the headline 'Soh switches legal counsel'. Subscribe