Hsien Yang loses suit by ministers

Defamatory claims: Hsien Yang (left) had alleged in a Facebook post that Shanmugam (centre) and Balakrishnan acted corruptly in their rental of state bungalows. — The Straits Times/ANN

LEE HSIEN YANG has been ordered by the High Court to pay S$200,000 (RM696,410) each to Cabinet ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan for defaming them in a public post on his Facebook page about their rental of state bungalows in Ridout Road.

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

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

The legal action arose over the post on Hsien Yang’s Facebook page made on July 23, which alleged that the ministers had acted corruptly by having the Singapore Land Authority give them preferential treatment.

In a written judgment yesterday, Justice Goh Yihan found that Hsien Yang’s defamatory allegations against the two ministers were “of the gravest kind”, as they referred to their personal integrity, professional reputation and honour, as well as core attributes of their personalities.

The judge said Shanmugam and Balakrishnan are public leaders and persons of the highest integrity who have a high standing, while Hsien Yang is well-known in Singapore.

Goh added that there has been and continues to be substantial publication and republication of the defamatory allegations in Singapore.

The judge noted that Hsien Yang did not apologise or remove the post despite being given an opportunity to do so by the claimants.

Goh also found that Hsien Yang had acted with malice because he “knew that the offending words were false, that he published them recklessly, and/or without considering or caring whether they are true or not”.

The judge said malice in defamation means any ill-will, spite or some wrong or improper motive, and justifies the award of not only higher damages but also aggravated damages.

In assessing the quantum, Goh considered two separate defamation suits brought by Hsien Loong when he was the prime minister.

Goh also awarded S$150,000 (RM522,308) in general damages and S$50,000 (RM174,103) in aggravated damages each to Shanmugam and Balakrishnan. — The Straits Times/ANN

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