Singapore PM’s brother to pay damages to Indian-origin ministers for defaming them

Indian-origin ministers

SINGAPORE: The Singapore High court has ordered businessman Lee Hsien Yang — who is the brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong — to pay damages to two Indian-origin ministers for his defamatory comments on Facebook relating to the rental of their colonial-era bungalows in the city-state.

The judgment was granted in favour of Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, after Yang failed to respond to their defamation suits against him.

The amount of damages to be paid will be assessed at a subsequent hearing, The Straits Times newspaper reported on Monday.

In his ruling, Justice Goh Yi Han said the two ministers had met the requirements for a default judgment against Yang.

In addition, he also granted an injunction restraining Yang from further publishing or disseminating the false and defamatory allegations.

Goh, in a written judgment on November 27, said he granted the injunction as there were “strong reasons” for him to conclude that Yang would repeat his defamatory statements.

He noted that Yang had refused to take down his July 23 social media post despite having been issued a letter of demand by the ministers on July 27.

Yang has accused the ministers of acting corruptly and for personal gain by having Singapore Land Authority (SLA) give them preferential treatment by illegally felling trees without approval, and also having SLA pay for renovations to 26 and 31 Ridout Road bungalows.

Shanmugam and Balakrishnan had undergone anti-corruption investigations in July, which found no wrongdoing with their respective leases of the houses.

Following this, the ministers sent letters to Yang on July 27, asking him to remove the post and all related comments.

The letter also demanded that Yang post a public apology on his social media page for four weeks.

He was also asked to pay SG$25,000, which the ministers intended to donate to charity.

After receiving the lawyers’ letter by the ministers, Yang said in a July 29 Facebook post that he was simply stating the facts, adding that the two ministers should sue him in a court in Britain, where he presently resides.

On August 14, the ministers’ lawyers applied to the court for permission to serve the papers to Yang “wherever he may be found in the UK”, following which the ministers were granted permission to serve the papers out of jurisdiction on Yang.

The court order stated that within 21 days after the papers are served on him, Yang was to file a document to indicate whether he intended to contest the claim.

The Straits Times said quoting the judge that the implication of Yang’s decision not to respond to the suits was that the court was unable to take into account any countervailing materials regarding the claims

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