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Very grave libels: PM's lawyer

Lawyer's letter demands apology for allegations of corruption over contract. -ST
Goh Chin Lian

Mon, Jan 07, 2013
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - In an article published online on Dec 21, blogger Alex Au had dwelt at length on issues raised by the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council over the termination of an IT contract.

Titled "PAP mis-AIMed, faces blowback", it questioned the termination as well as the sale of People's Action Party (PAP) town councils' software to an IT firm. The company, Action Information Management (Aim), had ended the service contract with the Workers' Party-run town council in 2011.

Among other things, it suggested that the case be investigated, and also linked Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to the issue.

The article attracted more than 150 comments from netizens, with several alleging corruption and others suggesting any investigation would be covered up.

Yesterday, Mr Lee's lawyer Davinder Singh cited five portions in Mr Au's article and 21 of the postings when he took the blogger to task.

Mr Au's article, noted the Senior Counsel at Drew & Napier, had made a specific reference to "town councillors" and "nearly all PAP MPs in the town councils across the board".

This was done, he charged, "in the context of your very serious suggestions of criminal breach of trust and, by your reference to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau and the Attorney-General's Chambers, of corruption".

The letter then added: "Our client is specifically referred to. It is widely known that our client is one of the PAP MPs in the Ang Mo Kio Town Council. It is also a matter of public knowledge that our client is the secretary-general of the PAP."

Likewise, the subsequent posts by the blog's readers had suggested that the PM "is guilty of corruption" in the Aim case and "will abuse his powers to cover up the matter or prevent any investigation into his corruption".

"These are false and baseless allegations," said Mr Singh.

"Your act of publishing these highly defamatory allegations or causing them to be published makes you responsible and liable for them in law," he added.

The publication of the article and posts was done "maliciously", he said, adding: "They constitute very grave libels against our client, disparage our client and impugn his character, credit and integrity."

The article and posts were also available to "all and sundry" on Mr Au's website, and would be "republished widely over the Internet, as has happened".

Mr Singh's letter demanded that Mr Au put up an apology on his website Yawning Bread, and immediately take down the article and posts.

This is the second time in six months that Mr Au has been asked to apologise for an article on his blog.

Last July, he apologised after commenting on the case of plastic surgeon Woffles Wu's traffic fine, after the Attorney-General's Chambers wrote to him to say that his post was contemptuous of the courts for alleging that courts were biased towards the well-connected.

In February last year, he also removed comments about Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam after receiving a lawyer's letter from the minister.

The latest case had arisen after the chairman of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council, Ms Sylvia Lim, questioned the termination of computer and financial systems provided by Aim, a PAP-owned firm.

This had happened after her party took over the town council following the Workers' Party's victory in Aljunied GRC in 2011.

Ms Lim had also questioned the 2010 sale of the 14 PAP town councils' IT software to Aim.

In response, the coordinating chairman of the PAP town councils, Dr Teo Ho Pin, had issued several statements explaining the termination, and why and how the software was sold.

Yesterday, Mr Au said he would comply with PM Lee's demands, but added that it should not "distract" from the issue of the sale of the IT software.

He said: "From what has been disclosed so far, reasonable

people would have many questions, and while news of me getting a lawyer's letter might be temporarily more 'newsy', it is more important for Singapore that these questions be answered, not avoided."

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