SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's defamation suit against blogger Roy Ngerng has entered a new round, with Mr Lee responding to Mr Ngerng's bid to get the High Court to turn down his application for damages without the case going for a full trial.
In a statement filed in court on Aug 21, Mr Lee dismissed most of the reasons Mr Ngerng gave for an open trial.
He said the arguments the 33-year-old made are "inadmissible, irrelevant, and an abuse of the process of the court", adding that they were designed to advance Mr Ngerng's political agenda.
Also, the arguments "have no place in an affidavit", he said.
The Prime Minister had sued Mr Ngerng on May 29 for defamation over his May 15 blog post, which alleged the misappropriation of Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies.
In the post, the blogger made a comparison between City Harvest Church leaders prosecuted for allegedly misusing $50 million of church funds and what Mr Lee had allegedly done to CPF funds.
On July 10, Mr Lee applied to the High Court for a summary judgment, a process in which a plaintiff asks the court to rule in his favour without a trial. He said Mr Ngerng did not have a defence.
But in an Aug 4 affidavit, Mr Ngerng argued he had a defence.
He said the Prime Minister's lawyers had misunderstood his blog post when they took it to mean he was saying Mr Lee had misappropriated CPF funds.
All he was doing, he said, was to ask for government transparency and accountability in the handling of CPF monies.
He also produced past official statements to back his arguments that the Government had changed its position on how CPF monies are invested after he wrote his blog post.
These issues, he said, require thorough examination and should be "dealt with rigorously and held accountable to Singaporeans".
Responding, Mr Lee said his lawyers had advised him not to "dignify" Mr Ngerng's "abuse of the process of this court by responding to matters which are inadmissible and irrelevant to the application".
Hence, he addressed only one "factual matter", which was about two other blog posts on CPF that Mr Ngerng had been asked to remove.
The posts were written in 2012 and last year. Mr Ngerng said these posts made no mention of Mr Lee.
But, Mr Lee said Mr Ngerng was "well aware" of the reason he was asked to remove the posts. This was clearly explained in letters exchanged by their lawyers in May, he added.
The two posts were among some that Mr Ngerng sent out as part of an e-mail alerting the media of his case. This was after he had apologised over his initial May 15 blog post.
Mr Lee, in his latest response, also noted that Mr Ngerng's Aug 4 affidavit was filed three days after the Aug 1 deadline.
He said Mr Ngerng's lawyer, Mr M. Ravi, had informed his lawyers, Drew and Napier, of the delay and they, in turn, had asked Mr Ravi to ask the court for an extension of the deadline.
The hearing to decide if Mr Lee should be granted summary judgment has been set for Sept 18 before a High Court judge.
This article was first published on Aug 30, 2014.
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