SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's press secretary has refuted allegations that her comments made earlier over a closed-door defamation hearing against blogger Roy Ngerng were "inaccurate".
Mr Ngerng's lawyer M. Ravi said in a letter to Ms Chang Li Lin, which was released to the media today, that she was "misinformed" over Mr Ngerng's willingness to be cross-examined.
But, citing notes taken by Drew & Napier lawyers, Ms Chang said in a statement today that Mr Ravi is wrong, and that Mr Ngerng has made yet another baseless allegation.
She said: "From the notes, it is clear that Mr Ravi had informed the Court that Mr Ngerng would rely on the affidavit filed by him in the earlier summary judgment application as his evidence for the purposes of the assessment of damages.
"Mr Davinder Singh then gave Mr Ravi notice that if Mr Ngerng was going to give evidence for the purposes of the assessment of damages, Mr Singh would be cross-examining Mr Ngerng. Whereupon Mr Ravi promptly changed his position, and informed the Court that Mr Ngerng would 'Therefore' not be filing any evidence.
"This was the clearest indication that Mr Ngerng did not want to be cross-examined. After saying that Mr Ngerng intended to rely on an earlier affidavit as his evidence, Mr Ravi did a hasty U-turn after Mr Singh said that he will cross-examine Mr Ngerng if he gives evidence. Mr Ravi was so determined that Mr Ngerng not be cross-examined that he even said to the Court 'Enough Y[our] H[onour] I won't be filing'."
Mr Ravi also asked in the letter whether it was appropriate for Ms Chang to be "issuing press releases on behalf of a private litigant" as "a civil servant".
In response, Ms Chang said: "He appears to have forgotten that, as the Court has found, Mr Ngerng falsely alleged that 'the plaintiff, the Prime Minister of Singapore... is guilty of criminal misappropriation of the monies paid by Singaporeans to the CPF'. It is therefore entirely proper for me to deal with this matter as the Prime Minister's Press Secretary."
Mr Ngerng, 33, was found to have defamed PM Lee last November and was ordered yesterday to pay him $29,000 in costs for legal fees and related expenses. Damages for defamation will be assessed at subsequent hearings, whose dates are not confirmed.
The suit arose from Ngerng's May 15 blog post last year, which alleged that Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies had been misappropriated.