Woman being sued by stepmother breaks down

SINGAPORE - The swimming coach being sued by her stepmother for allegedly breaking a $1 million "gag deal" not to comment about her family broke down in court yesterday when asked if she still loved her.

"I just can't believe that it's come to this," said Ms Wendy Chan Mei Yoke, 49, who lamented that she has not been able to communicate directly with Madam Eleanor Tan Kok Neo since the pact was first written in 2011.

"Chinese New Year, I sent her flowers and that's about the extent of it. I don't get a call or note to say, 'Yes I received the flowers.'"

Madam Tan, 79, had paid her stepdaughter $1 million not to say or write anything about her or her family, who are descendants of Mr Chia Hood Theam, a prominent Peranakan and bank agent born in the mid-19th century.

In September 2012, the agreement was modified at a mediation session to allow remarks about the family as long as they were not "defamatory, scandalous or untrue".

But a month later Ms Chan posted on a Channel News Asia forum in a thread about Madam Tan's daughter- in-law, Ms Foo Mee Har, the MP for West Coast GRC, and the latter's participation in a Parliament discussion on rising property prices.

Under the thread entitled "Wow Ms Foo Mee Har wants to know is $1 mil HDB flat a norm in future", Ms Chan had allegedly replied to another user: "I obviously cannot comment on your bimbo statement but it is a fact that she is with stan chart."

By doing this, Madam Tan claims, Ms Chan broke a verbal promise made at the session to honour her "paramount concern".

The retiree also alleges she was misled into agreeing to the amended terms. She wants the new agreement set aside and is seeking unspecified damages and a court order against Ms Chan.

Under re-examination by her lawyer, Mr Wendell Wong, yesterday, Ms Chan maintained that her four half-siblings are "resentful" of her and pressured Madam Tan to start the suit.

She said they had ostracised her completely after their father, Dr Harold Chan Wah Kim, died at age 77 in 2009.

In his will, he left the family home in Lornie Road to Madam Tan, who sold it.

Ms Chan claims her stepmother does not use the Internet and said third parties must have alerted her to the forum post, adding: "You don't give someone ammunition unless you have a purpose."

Ms Chan and her brother were born out of wedlock after Dr Chan, who was married to Madam Tan, had an affair. They went to live with the family when Ms Chan was seven.

The three-day trial ended last Friday.

Both sides will make submissions next month before a date is fixed for Judicial Commissioner Lee Kim Shin to give his decision.


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