TRE editor 'sorry for causing unnecessary duress' to PM Lee

Left: Richard Wan, one of five editors running TRE. He writes some of the articles and moderates the comments.

The editors of the TR Emeritus (TRE) sociopolitical website have been served a lawyer's letter by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for carrying a post alleging cronyism in Madam Ho Ching's appointment as head of Temasek Holdings.

The Straits Times reported that TRE editors have been asked to removed the post, post an apology by Feb 24 which must remain on the website for the same number of days the offending post had been, as well as give a written confirmation by Feb 23 that they would comply.

The post, published on Feb 16, has since been taken down as of 10pm last night. Madam Ho is PM Lee's wife.

Mr Davinder Singh, the Drew & Napier lawyer acting for PM Lee, also told The Straits Times yesterday that the letter had been served on Mr Richard Wan, one of the editors on TRE in person at his house in Hillview estate.

This incident comes days after Mr Wan, a 49-year-old IT consultant, appeared at a public forum on Wednesday, declaring himself as one of five editors of the the website.

The five-page lawyer's letter said that Madam Ho's appointment as head of Temasek in May 2002 was based 'on merit and through proper process' and that this 'is publicly known'.

Mr Wan told another local media that the post was made by one of their contributors. He also said the website was 'very sorry for causing unnecessary duress to the PM' and will comply with the letter's demands.

In the letter, Mr Singh also detailed that it was Mr S Dhanabalan, the chairman of the investment company's board of directors, who first decided that Madam Ho was the right person for the job, and approached Mr Lee in August 2001 to broach the subject.

But Mr Lee and then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong were both uncomfortable with the idea.

In November 2001, Mr Dhanabalan again raised the subject as he felt that Madam Ho was still the most suitable person, and modified the proposal, such that he would chair Temasek's executive committee and that Madam Ho would report directly to him.

Mr Singh also noted that Madam Ho's appointment had to be approved by the President, and that Mr Dhanabalan said in an interview with in June 2002 that her appointment had nothing to do with her family's connections.

This is the second incident in which a minister has responded to comments posted on websites with threatened legal action.

Last Tuesday, Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam got lawyers from Allen & Gledhill to send such a letter to blogger Alex Au, asking him to remove from his blog allegedly defamatory comments about him.

Mr Au did so, saying he took Mr Shanmugam at his word.