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Monday, May 31, 2021

Singapore PM in court over defamation suit against Malaysian

 

An article about Lee Kuan Yew’s home led to a defamation suit against a Malaysian writer. (Wikipedia pic/Sengkang)

SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made a virtual appearance in court today in a defamation suit against a Malaysian writer over an article which allegedly contained false statements about the home of his late father, Lee Kuan Yew.

Lee filed a suit against Rubaashini Shunmuganathan for her story on a Singapore news site in August 2019, which included references to a disagreement within the Lee family about what to do with the home of Kuan Yew, Singapore’s modern-day founder.

The prime minister appeared briefly in court via video conference to reaffirm his affidavits, in which he said he was seeking damages from Rubaashini.

He said he had obtained judgment in default of appearance on Dec 31. Rubaashini was not present in court and Reuters was unable to reach her.

“The article contained sensational allegations against me, the prime minister of Singapore, which were likely to attract a great deal of attention and go viral on the internet and on social networking sites,” Lee said.

Senior figures in the ruling People’s Action Party, including Lee Kuan Yew, have also previously sued foreign media and political opponents for defamation, saying such action was necessary to protect their reputations.

But some rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, say litigation stifles freedom of speech and political opposition.

In another recent defamation case, the High Court in March ordered a blogger to pay Lee damages of S$133,000 dollars. Leong Sze Hian raised money to cover that via crowdfunding on social media.

The family disagreement over the house has been about whether to demolish it, or let the government decide whether to make it a heritage landmark.

The prime minister has said his father was prepared to consider alternatives for the property if the government decided to list the site as a landmark and that he has recused himself from government discussions on the matter. - FMT

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