Blogger Roy Ngerng, accused of libel for a blog post that alleges Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has misappropriated Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings, wants to continue to write on the national pension scheme.
His lawyer M. Ravi said yesterday in a letter to Mr Lee's lawyer that Mr Ngerng's written undertaking not to "aggravate the injury and distress" to the Prime Minister through "similar other posts", should not forbid him from writing about the CPF.
Said Mr Ravi: "For the avoidance of doubt, 'similar other posts' should not be construed as a curtailment of our client's right to his freedom of expression to write or engage the public on the CPF issue and raise any matters relating to CPF that requires transparency and accountability to the public".
He gave this response to a point made in a letter on Monday from Mr Lee's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh.
The letter called for Mr Ngerng, 33, a health-care worker, to undertake in writing that "he will not further aggravate the injury and distress to our client through similar other posts, videos or other means" or face aggravated damages.
Mr Ravi, in making his point, also said any attempt to curtail Mr Ngerng's freedom of expression would go against Article 14 of Singapore's Constitution, "especially since these other posts do not refer directly" to Mr Lee.
He referred to Article 23 of the ASEAN Human Rights Charter as well. He further argued that Mr Ngerng's call for open dialogue on the CPF issue is in line with recent parliamentary exchanges emphasising the importance of robust debate.
Mr Ravi, in reply to another letter from Mr Singh on Tuesday, said he has instructions to accept legal letters on the matter on behalf of Mr Ngerng.
His response is the latest development in a saga that started with an allegedly libellous May 15 post by Mr Ngerng on his blog The Heart Truths. Yesterday, he posted on it an article titled: "I Will Continue To Speak Up On Singaporeans' CPF To Protect Us".
In the past few days, there had been many twists and turns to the saga as Mr Ngerng removed the May 15 post, apologised and promised not to make the same allegations. But he then uploaded a YouTube video and blog posts republishing the offending comparison between CPF savings and church funds allegedly misused by City Harvest Church leaders.
After he agreed to remove the posts and video or face aggravated damages, he sent e-mail to international and local media, among others, republishing the offending posts and video.
And instead of removing the video, he made it private for a select group of people.
He has since offered $5,000 as damages to Mr Lee, who has rejected it.
A court, in awarding general damages for defamation, traditionally considers such factors as the gravity of the allegation, its effect on the plaintiff's reputation, and the defendant's conduct from the time the defamation is published to the time of the verdict.
But for aggravated damages, the factors the court will look at include those that would tend to worsen the harm to reputation like the improper or irregular conduct of the defendant in connection with the publication of the defamation.
Typically, the ability to pay is not considered.
This article was first published on May 29, 2014.
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