Shanmugam, Vivian in court for defamation suit damages hearing; Lee Hsien Yang absent, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Shanmugam, Vivian in court for defamation suit damages hearing; Lee Hsien Yang absent

Cabinet ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan appeared briefly in the High Court on May 2 for a hearing to assess the amount of damages they are entitled to get from Mr Lee Hsien Yang for defaming them in Facebook comments about their rental of state bungalows in Ridout Road.

Mr Lee was absent.

The hearing was over in about 20 minutes. Mr Shanmugam and Dr Balakrishnan took the stand briefly to affirm the contents of the affidavits they had filed to the court.

Their lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, told Justice Goh Yihan that papers had been served on Mr Lee in inform him of the hearing.

Mr Singh added that no lawyers have come forward to say they are representing Mr Lee. The case was adjourned to a later date for further submissions.

Mr Singh later told reporters that Mr Shanmugam and Dr Balakrishnan did not specify the amount of damages sought. They were leaving it to the court, he added.

Mr Shanmugam, who is Law and Home Affairs Minister, and Dr Balakrishnan, who is Foreign Minister, had filed separate defamation suits in the High Court against Mr Lee in August 2023.

The legal action arose over a public post on Mr Lee’s Facebook page made on July 23.

Mr Lee is the younger son of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In November 2023, Justice Goh Yihan granted default judgment in favour of the two ministers, after Mr Lee failed to respond to their defamation suits against him.

In written grounds of decision, Justice Goh said the two ministers had met the requirements for a default judgment against Mr Lee.

As Mr Lee was outside Singapore, the ministers applied to the court and were given permission to serve him court papers by Facebook messenger, which they did on Sept 15, 2023.

While there is no need for the ministers to prove that Mr Lee saw the documents served on him, Justice Goh noted that Mr Lee had put up a post on Sept 16, 2023, that confirmed he had seen the papers.

Mr Lee then had 21 days to respond to the claims, but did not do so.

The judge had also granted an injunction restraining Mr Lee from further publishing or disseminating the false and defamatory allegations, which stated, among other things, that the ministers had acted corruptly and for personal gain by receiving preferential treatment for the rentals from the Singapore Land Authority.

Justice Goh said he had granted the injunction as there were “strong reasons” for him to conclude that Mr Lee would repeat his defamatory statements.

defamationK ShanmugamVivian BalakrishnanLee Hsien Yang