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Tham Yuen-C
Thursday, May 22, 2014

Singapore

PM Lee demands apology and compensation from blogger

The Straits Times | Tham Yuen-C | Thursday, May 22, 2014

Roy Ngerng Yi Ling speaking during a three-hour protest rally at Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park on 8 June 2013. He is among the bloggers who criticised the introduction of new licensing rules for news websites by the Media Development Authority (MDA).

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has demanded an apology and compensation from blogger Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, 33, for a post that alleges Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings have been "misappropriated", and alludes to wrongdoing by the Government.

Mr Lee, in a letter of demand sent via his lawyer, also wants Mr Ngerng to remove the post from his blog called The Heart Truths and two Facebook pages.

If Mr Ngerng does not comply by tomorrow, he will be sued for defamation. Yesterday, he put the letter up on his blog.

Senior Counsel Davinder Singh wrote to Mr Ngerng on Sunday, asking that he remove the May 15 post with the headline Where Your CPF Money Is Going: Learning From The City Harvest Trial.

Also, the apology must be posted on the website and Mr Ngerng is to pay for legal costs as well as compensate Mr Lee for damages, wrote Mr Singh.

In the post, Mr Ngerng compared a Channel News Asia chart detailing the relationship among City Harvest Church leaders prosecuted for misusing about $50 million in church funds, to another chart that he had created.

His chart sets out the relationships among the CPF, Mr Lee, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Temasek Holdings, GIC and other Singapore companies.

Mr Singh said the blog post "is understood to mean that Mr Lee, the Prime Minister of Singapore and chairman of GIC, is guilty of criminal misappropriation of the monies paid by Singaporeans to the CPF".

The "false and baseless allegation" constitutes serious libel against Mr Lee and "disparages him and impugns his character, credit and integrity", he said. "It is also clear that the article was published maliciously," he added.

Mr Ngerng told The Straits Times yesterday he was in discussion with his lawyer M. Ravi on how to respond, and he was "disappointed the Government had decided to sue" him instead of addressing the points in his blog post. This latest post on the CPF is one of many he has posted on the topic over the years, and on the cost of living, immigration and other issues.

Asked about the Prime Minister's move, Mr Ngerng, who runs health programmes in a hospital, said: "No one gets sued on a daily basis and knows how to respond to it... my articles are based on research of information available online."

Since 2012, Singapore ministers have sent letters of demand to at least two other bloggers over online defamatory comments.

Blogger Alex Au was asked by PM Lee to apologise and retract an article last year about a deal to sell computer systems used by town councils, and the year before, by Law Minister K. Shanmugam about "false and scurrilous" comments on his personal life.

Mr Au complied each time.

In 2012, Mr Richard Wan, an editor of sociopolitical blog Temasek Review Emeritus, also complied when asked to apologise over an article alleging that Mr Lee had nepotistic motives.

yuenc@sph.com.sg

This article was published on May 20 in The Straits Times.

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