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Defamation trial: PM Lee sends letter via Prime Minister’s Office to intimidate TOC chief editor Terry Xu, argues lawyer Lim Tean – Unfold Times

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Demanding TOC chief editor Terry Xu to take down an allegedly defamatory article by sending a letter through the Prime Minister’s Workplace (PMO) as an alternative of constructing the demand by way of his legal professionals was a manner for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to intimidate Mr Xu utilizing his place as head of Authorities, argued lawyer Lim Tean.

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The offending article — titled “PM Lee’s spouse, Ho Ching weirdly shares article on slicing ties with members of the family” — contained alleged defamatory statements made by PM Lee’s siblings Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling in relation to the 38 Oxley Street dispute.

In his cross-examination of PM Lee on the primary day of the defamation swimsuit trial on Monday (30 November), Mr Lim, who represents Mr Xu, questioned PM Lee’s motives for utilizing the PMO to ship such a letter as an alternative of instructing his private legal professionals to ship Mr Xu a letter of demand.

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PM Lee clarified that his intention was to “keep away from a lawsuit”, as he thought that Mr Xu would “get the message” —  particularly to apologise to him and take away the article in order that the matter could be closed.

PM Lee additionally claimed {that a} “correct letter of demand” got here from his lawyer.

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Nonetheless, Mr Lim highlighted no letter of demand was despatched by PM Lee’s lawyer to Mr Xu and that the PMO’s letter was adopted instantly by a writ of summons as an alternative.

PM Lee replied: “Is that appropriate? If that’s the case I stand corrected.”

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Mr Lim requested if he was making an attempt to make use of his standing because the Prime Minister to intimidate Mr Xu to take away the article.

PM Lee denied Mr Lim’s assertion and mentioned that it will be “much more intimidating” if his lawyer acts for him.

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“I’ve by no means completed this earlier than. I ought to say that if I had signed the letter myself, maybe that might be much less intimidating,” he famous.

PM Lee additionally confirmed that his workplace has publicised the letter “virtually instantly” to the mainstream media after it was despatched to Mr Xu.

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Whereas presenting the letter despatched by PM Lee’s press secretary — dated 1 September 2019 — earlier than the court docket as we speak, Mr Lim requested the Prime Minister if the letter was drafted by his legal professionals.

PM Lee answered: “I cleared the submit. I cleared the textual content.”

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Mr Lim repeated the query of whether or not the letter was drafted by his legal professionals, to which PM Lee confirmed that it was.

“So that you selected to ship out the letter in your Prime Minister’s letterhead as an alternative of your lawyer’s letterhead when really it had been drafted by your legal professionals?” Mr Lim requested.

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In response to the query, PM Lee mentioned: “No, however I needed it to be the legal professionals who have been working for me and I needed this to be a missive in need of a proper letter from my legal professionals.”

Mr Lim requested whether or not PM Lee would get his legal professionals to ship a letter of demand pursuing libel claims with a transparent message that he’s pursuing his claims “as a personal particular person”, to which PM Lee answered: “Sure”.

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He additional probed PM Lee: “However right here, by utilizing your Prime Minister’s Workplace letterhead you’re telling him, ‘I’m coming after you because the Prime Minister of this nation’. Do you agree?”

PM Lee, nevertheless, disagreed with Mr Lim, arguing that his level was to inform Mr Xu that he has defamed him “because the Prime Minister of Singapore personally” and needed him “to take discover” of the defamation.

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Background of PM Lee Hsien Loong’s defamation swimsuit in opposition to TOC chief editor Terry Xu

PM Lee’s defamation swimsuit in opposition to Mr Xu pertains to an article printed on TOC on 15 August final yr titled “PM Lee’s spouse, Ho Ching weirdly shares article on slicing ties with members of the family”.

The article contained alleged defamatory statements made by PM Lee’s siblings Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling in relation to the 38 Oxley Street dispute.

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On the coronary heart of the 38 Oxley Street dispute is the home owned by the Lee siblings’ late father and Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and the elder Lee’s want to have the home demolished as an alternative of being was a museum or authorities relic.

Mr LHY and Dr LWL are joint executors and trustees of Mr LKY’s property.

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In a joint assertion launched on 14 June 2017, which was shared on their Fb pages, PM Lee’s two youthful siblings claimed, amongst a number of different allegations, that PM Lee and his spouse Ho Ching had defied Mr LKY’s want to demolish the home.

Additionally they alleged that PM Lee and Mdm Ho have been answerable for instilling and perpetuating the Authorities’s stance to protect the home at 38 Oxley Street, together with PM Lee’s purported transfer to show that Mr LKY had modified his thoughts on having the home demolished.

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Mr LHY and Dr LWL additionally claimed that PM Lee had engaged in abuse of energy as Prime Minister to acquire a replica of the Deed of Reward from then-Minister of Nationwide Improvement Lawrence Wong, which was then handed to his private lawyer Lucien Wong on the time for his personal goal.

The youthful Lee siblings additionally alleged that Mdm Ho wielded vital affect within the Authorities regardless of not being a public official. PM Lee issued an announcement the identical day to counter the allegations.

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Regardless of that, Mr LHY and Dr LWL continued to make claims in opposition to PM Lee in subsequent Fb posts.

Following that, PM Lee introduced in June the identical yr his plans to ship a ministerial assertion in Parliament the subsequent month to handle the allegations made by his siblings.

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The prime minister delivered his ministerial assertion on 3 July 2017, through which he branded the allegations as baseless.PM Lee additionally mentioned that he wouldn’t be suing Mr LHY and Dr LWL as doing so would additional besmirch their mother and father’ identify.

The subsequent day, PM Lee delivered one other ministerial assertion, through which he mentioned that he wouldn’t name for a Choose Committee or a Fee of Inquiry to be convened into the 38 Oxley Street dispute and his siblings’ allegations.

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Mr LHY and Dr LWL on 4 July — the identical day PM Lee made his second ministerial assertion on the matter — in a joint assertion alleged that PM Lee had improperly misrepresented to LKY that the gazetting of 38 Oxley Street was both “inevitable” or that the home was already gazetted.

Two days in a while 6 July, Mr LHY and Dr LWL collectively said that they might not submit any additional proof on the allegations if PM Lee and the Authorities don’t intervene with Mr LKY’s want — in addition to their very own — to have the home demolished.

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PM Lee responded the identical day by saying that he couldn’t concede to his siblings’ demand to withdraw plans to ship his ministerial assertion and to carry the talk in Parliament, in addition to disbanding the Ministerial Committee and never responding to their accusations.

Mr LHY and Dr LWL henceforth continued to make posts on issues regarding 38 Oxley Street.

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Nonetheless, PM Lee determined to file a defamation swimsuit in opposition to Mr Xu for publishing the article that contained the allegedly defamatory statements made by Mr LHY and Dr LWL in relation to the 38 Oxley Street dispute.

Previous to that, PM Lee’s press secretary Chang Li Lin wrote to Mr Xu, asking the latter to take away the “libellous” article and to publish a “full and unconditional” apology.

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PM Lee later started authorized proceedings in opposition to Mr Xu after the latter had refused the calls for made in Ms Chang’s letter.

The trial continues tomorrow on Tuesday (1 December).

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