Blogger Roy Ngerng: 'I do not hate the PM'

Blogger Roy Ngerng: 'I do not hate the PM'
Blogger Roy Ngerng and his father arriving at the Supreme Court on the third day of the hearing to determine the damages to be awarded to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who had successfully sued Mr Ngerng for defamation.
PHOTO: ST

Tears, raised voices and apologies.

A gamut of emotions was on full display in the High Court yesterday as blogger Roy Ngerng continued to be cross-examined by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, who is representing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

It was the third day of the hearing to determine the damages to be awarded to PM Lee, who had successfully sued Mr Ngerng for defamation.

The court had earlier ruled in a summary judgment that Mr Ngerng had defamed Mr Lee.

During Mr Ngerng's second day under cross-examination, he broke down twice.

The blogger first choked up midway through the morning session when Mr Singh was pressing him about his "limited financial means", a point he used to back up his offer of paying $5,000 in damages to the Prime Minister.

Mr Ngerng, who is unemployed, was teary when he spoke about how he is now digging into his savings and depending on his parents for financial help.

Further questioning by Mr Singh revealed that of the $110,000 Mr Ngerng had raised from crowd-funding last year, $70,000 went to his previous lawyer, Mr M. Ravi.

Another $35,000 went to paying for Mr Lee's legal costs - $29,000 for the initial defamation suit in February and $6,000 for the hearing last month to bring in a Queen's Counsel from the UK.

The remainder was used to pay his previous lawyer, Mr George Hwang, and for filing fees. But it was not enough and he had to use his savings.

He discharged Mr Hwang last week and has been representing himself in court.

Mr Ngerng was also given £5,000 (S$10,500) by London-based Media Legal Defence Initiative as financial assistance for the case.

He met the organisation in London while on a trip sponsored by human rights organisation Article 19.

The involvement of foreign organisations was something that got Mr Ngerng worked up a second time towards the end of the morning session.

FOREIGN FRIENDS

During his cross-examination, it was also revealed that he had filed amicus (friend of the court) briefs from foreign organisations.

Documents from the International Commission of Jurists and Center for Law in the Philippines were submitted together with Mr Ngerng's opening statement on Wednesday.

Mr Singh charged that this was an attempt to "put pressure on the courts".

Furthermore, despite apologising several times, Mr Ngerng had not shown that he was sincere about it and continued to blog about the court proceedings, even putting up Mr Lee's affidavit and letter of demand on his blog, he added.

Choking up and raising his voice, Mr Ngerng said: "I'm worried that after today I won't be able to speak up because I don't know what you will do.

"That's why I've been rushing to put up articles on my blog. I don't care if you believe it but (the Central Provident Fund or CPF) is something I feel very strongly about," he said, sobbing loudly.

His voice cracking, he continued: "We all know I'm being persecuted because I've spoken up on the CPF.

"And the PM said (on Wednesday) that he has been waiting to sue me... I do not hate the PM and I sincerely apologise to him, but we need to speak up for the people."

His assistant, Ms Janet Low, was also in tears.

In response, Justice Lee Seiu Kin asked if Mr Ngerng could still continue giving evidence and broke the session for lunch when he asked for a break.

When the session resumed after lunch, Mr Ngerng, in his re-examination of himself, again apologised for what he said, but emphasised that he had criticised the Government, not the Prime Minister.

Throughout the day, he apologised for his actions at least a dozen times.

Both sides will make written submissions on the case by Aug 31 and the judge will decide at a later date if oral submissions are also needed.

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