Shanmugam, Vivian to sue Lee Hsien Yang for defamation over Ridout Rd claims if he does not apologise
SINGAPORE - Ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan said they will sue Mr Lee Hsien Yang for defamation if he does not apologise for having made false allegations.
Mr Shanmugam, who is Law and Home Affairs Minister, said in a Facebook post on Thursday evening that he and Dr Balakrishnan, who is Foreign Minister, have sent lawyers’ letters to Mr Lee on Thursday.
“Lee Hsien Yang has accused us of acting corruptly and for personal gain by having Singapore Land Authority (SLA) give us preferential treatment by illegally felling trees without approval, and also having SLA pay for renovations to 26 and 31 Ridout Road. These allegations are false,” said Mr Shanmugam.
He said they have asked Mr Lee to apologise, withdraw his allegations and pay damages, which will be donated to charity.
“If he does not do so, we will sue him,” he said.
On Tuesday, Mr Lee, the younger son of Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and the brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, was asked to carry a correction notice on a Facebook post he made on Sunday that commented on the Ridout Road saga.
He was issued the correction direction under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), Singapore’s fake news law.
The direction to do so was issued by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong.
A press release from the Law Ministry said on Tuesday that Mr Lee’s Facebook post on Sunday had made three untrue statements.
These included that the State had paid for the renovations to 26 and 31 Ridout Road because the properties were leased by the two ministers, and that trees at the two properties were allowed to be felled because the properties were leased by them. The third statement was about SPH Media Trust.
Mr Lee put up the correction notice on Tuesday night, but made a new post that called the Pofma notice misleading and stated that he stood by what he had said.
The issue of the Ridout Road rentals was debated in Parliament in July, following a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) investigation and a review by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean.
The six-hour debate on July 3 saw Mr Shanmugam, Dr Balakrishnan, SM Teo and Mr Tong answer questions from MPs from both sides of the aisle.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also spoke, and said he had asked the CPIB to conduct a formal investigation, so as to establish definitively if there was any corruption or wrongdoing, notwithstanding his confidence in both ministers and the system.
The CPIB said in its report that it did not find any wrongdoing on the part of the two ministers, while SM Teo’s review found that processes had been followed.
Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his wife Lee Suet Fern are currently living overseas. The couple had left Singapore after coming under police investigation for lying during judicial proceedings.
They were found to have lied under oath over Mrs Lee’s conduct in handling the last will of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
In the Facebook post that is now under the spotlight, Mr Lee had said that “trust in the PAP (People’s Action Party) has been shattered” due to the Ridout Road and other recent episodes, including the arrest of Minister for Transport S. Iswaran as part of a corruption probe.
“Trust has to be earned. It cannot simply be inherited. PM Lee Hsien Loong’s failure of leadership has squandered that trust,” he said.
On Wednesday, PAP assistant secretary-general Desmond Lee said Mr Lee Hsien Yang was pursuing a vendetta because he wants to bring down the Government, as well as the PAP, using falsehoods to attack PM Lee.
In a post titled “A reply to Lee Hsien Yang’s lies” on the ruling party’s online platform Petir.sg, he said: “Mr Lee Hsien Yang cited the corruption probe against minister S. Iswaran as an example of PM Lee Hsien Loong failing in his leadership.
“How is this so? Just because PM Lee did what his predecessors, including Mr Lee Kuan Yew, did: Support CPIB’s investigation of possible wrongdoing by political office holders?”
Mr Desmond Lee, who is Minister for National Development, added: “Why is he doing this? It is consistent with his duplicitous conduct towards his father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.”
Cue. (2023k, July 27). Shanmugam, Vivian to sue Lee Hsien Yang for defamation over Ridout Rd claims if he does not apologise. The Straits Times. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/politics/shanmugam-vivian-to-sue-lee-hsien-yang-for-defamation-over-ridout-rd-claims-if-he-does-not-apologise