Did blogger know of implications?

Did blogger know of implications?
Blogger Roy Ngerng speaks to the media after attending a damages hearing in a defamation case by Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Supreme Court in Singapore July 1, 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

Blogger Roy Ngerng yesterday claimed he did not know the meaning of the word "misappropriated" and that it had criminal implications.

But Senior Counsel Davinder Singh pointed out that the blog posts of the 34-year-old showed he knew he was accusing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of criminal mishandling of Central Provident Fund savings.

The blog posts included the defamatory post of May 15 last year that suggested Mr Lee had misappropriated Singaporeans' CPF savings, as Mr Ngerng had likened Mr Lee to City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders, who are being prosecuted for alleged misuse of $50 million in church funds.

The posts showed he was aware of the allegations made against those involved in the CHC case, said Mr Singh, who is representing Mr Lee. Hence, Mr Ngerng must have known the implications that any comparison made in his post would have on Mr Lee's character, Mr Singh argued.

Mr Ngerng had insisted that he used the word only after coming across it in a Channel NewsAsia (CNA) article, and that he did not realise it had criminal implications.

"I understand that (the CNA article) said (the City Harvest Church leaders) misappropriated funds but I didn't understand the definition of misappropriation in the legal sense," he told the court.

The exchange took place on the second day of a three-day hearing before Justice Lee Seiu Kin, to assess the damages he must pay PM Lee for defaming him.

Justice Lee, in a summary judgement last November, had found the May 15 blog post defamatory.

In it, Mr Ngerng had replicated a chart in a CNA article, but replaced the image of CHC founder Kong Hee with that of PM Lee, and the images of the other accused CHC leaders with those of prominent people such as Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Temasek Holdings chief executive Ho Ching. Beneath the chart, he wrote: "Meanwhile, something bears an uncanny resemblance to how the money is being misappropriated."

Yesterday, Mr Ngerng insisted he used the chart only because it was "a good way to explain" how the Government invested CPF monies.

He also said he did not understand the gravity of using the word "misappropriated" until he received Mr Singh's letter of demand to take down the defamatory post.

But Mr Singh charged that it would have been clear to Mr Ngerng that the word "misappropriated" - as it appeared in the CNA article and on which he based his blog post - was used in relation to allegations of dishonesty.

"You have agreed that when people are accused of something, there are charges. You have agreed that one of the charges that had been levelled at them was misappropriation. And so would you agree that, from this article, that misappropriation is a crime?"

Said Mr Ngerng: "If you put it this way, then yes."


This article was first published on July 3, 2015.
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