Blogger Roy Ngerng took the stand again today (3 Jul) in the final day of the trial to determine the amount of defamatory damages payable to PM Lee.
Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, representing Mr Lee, asked Roy if he is apologetic, why he was drawing public attention to the state of the legal process.
Roy explained that he kept publishing lawyers’ letters and other updates on the legal battle between him and Mr Lee on his blog “simply as a matter of freedom of speech”.
Mr Singh also asked about statements by the International Commission for Jurists in Thailand and Centre of Law Philippines included in Roy’s opening statement 2 days ago, saying that those were included to put added pressure on the Singapore judiciary.
At the point, Supreme Court Justice Lee Seiu Kin told Mr Singh, “I face absolutely no pressure.”
Just before lunchtime, Roy broke down in tears while on the stand, saying he believes he continues to be silenced in terms of what he is allowed to write on his blog about the CPF system.
“We all know that I’m being persecuted. I do not hate the Prime Minister, but we need to speak up for the people,” he said, referring to many Singaporeans who are unhappy with the current CPF system.
Later when the court convened, Mr Singh accused Roy of not being truthful. For example, Mr Singh said, Roy had sent emails regarding the take down of his blog post to 82 journalists’ email addresses, instead of the claimed 52.
Mr Singh also said that at the time of the incident, Roy’s blog homepage had ten times the pageviews of the offending blog article itself. But when Mr Singh and his team asked for information on pageview number of Roy’s home page, they were not provided by Roy.
Roy argued that the popularity of a post should be measured by the article’s pageviews, and not the homepage’s, which contains other articles. It is pointless to obtain the statistics of the whole site since the dispute on hand is the one offending article – the one which compared Mr Lee to Kong Hee of CHC.
Mr Singh also accused Roy of not publishing Mr Lee’s rejection to his out-of-court offer for $5,000. In defence, Roy said that Mr Lee’s response to the offer being “derisory” was already reported by mainstream media.
Seeking financial help from public
Roy explained to the court why he needed to seek financial help from the public, as his savings have been dwindling since Mr Lee started suing him.
He told the court that of the $110,000 donated by the public, $70,000 had been paid to lawyer M Ravi while $36,000 was used to pay Mr Lee’s lawyer represented by Mr Singh’s firm Drew & Napier. This amount was for the legal costs of Mr Lee for the summary judgement as well as the Queen’s Counsel application, which was rejected by a previous court session. As such, Roy has to pay costs.
The remaining money was used to pay Roy’s new lawyer George Hwang, but the blogger received an additional £5,000 (S$10,500) from London-based human rights organisation Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) to fund the case. Roy said MLDI and another London-based organisation, Article 19, assisted in legal advice.
When Roy told the court that all the donations had been spent, Mr Singh said that knowing his means were limited, he should not have aggravated the offence with follow-up blog posts.
“As you were incurring these expenses and filing fees, you were aware that if you continued to aggravate the injury, there was a risk that the damages could be increased,” Mr Singh said. “The sensible thing to do was to stop aggravating.”
Mr Singh noted that after receiving the letter of demand from Mr Lee, Roy immediately offered damages “to get away on the cheap”, yet continued aggravating the offence with his subsequent actions.
“He is continuing to attack the plaintiff (Mr Lee) for improper motives,” he said.
The case was adjourned at 3pm, with written submissions due 31 Aug. Roy told the court that he needs to go for his reservist training in the next 2 weeks. Justice Lee then gave him another additional six weeks after that to make his written submissions.