27 December 2018
Leong Sze Hian denies embellishing article, accuses PM Lee of abusing court process
Individuals have begun to crowdfund for Leong’s Defence Fund and the prime minister’s estranged younger brother, Hsien Yang, was the first to donate towards the fund.
Blogger Leong Sze Hian has filed his defence and counterclaim yesterday against a defamation lawsuit brought by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, arguing that it is an “abuse of the process of the court.”
Leong is represented by lawyer and opposition party leader Lim Tean of Carson Law Chambers.
The libel suit was filed against Leong on November 12, after he shared an article alleging that Lee had helped Malaysia’s former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak to launder money from the country’s state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
A pre-trial conference for the case is expected to take place on Jan 7.
The article, “Breaking News: Singapore Lee Hsien Loong Becomes 1MDB’s Key Investigation Target – Najib Signed Several Unfair Agreements With Hsien Loong In Exchange for Money Laundering,” was originally published by online site States Times Review on November 5 and picked up by Malaysian website The Coverage on Nov 7.
Leong shared The Coverage’s post on his Facebook that same day, without any accompanying caption.
In a statement of claim, Lee’s lawyers from law firm Drew and Napier noted that Leong’s public post and the article “contain allegations that are highly defamatory of our client.”
Leong said in his defence that the post, which was made on or about 6.16pm on November 7, was only up for three days before he removed it at 7.30am on November 10. This was because he received a takedown notice from the Infocomm and Media Development Authority.
He also filed a counterclaim that the libel suit is an “abuse of the process of the court” because it is “not a real and substantial tort.”
Leong pointed out that both the States Times Review and The Coverage – which published the article – have “significant circulations and readerships” that outstrip those of his Facebook page.
Government leaders had also come out to dismiss the article as fake news, he noted.
As such, the matter was already in public domain and his only involvement was to make available the article in The Coverage on his Facebook page “without embellishment or comment” for less than three days, Leong said.
Furthermore, his Facebook post on the article did not gain much traction, he added.
It received only 22 reactions, five comments and 18 shares, which Leong described as “minimal and inconsequential.”
He argued that “no damage could have been caused in the eyes of the very few people who read” the post, and that Lee’s libel claim “cannot be said to be necessary.”