Lawyer and Peoples Voice Party (PVP) founder Lim Tean is currently defending his client Leong Sze Hian against a defamation suit filed by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Leong Sze Hian has been accused of defaming the PM by sharing an article, without commenting on it, over the 1MDB saga which The Coverage Malaysia had republished from The States Times Review. The legal team hired by the PM had called upon an expert witness Dr Phan Tuan Quang who estimated Leong Sze Hian’s post would have appeared on the Facebook news feeds of 11,749 users.
Lim Tean has punched holes into the defence built by the PM’s legal team: (1) why did Lee Hsien Loong not sue The States Review or The Coverage and (2) the expert witness Dr Phan could not be totally independent.
On his first point, Lim Tean produced evidence showing Lee Hsien Loong had sued a female Malaysian writer Rubaashini Shunmuganathan in the Singapore Courts for writing an allegedly defamatory 2019 article about him. As the writer is overseas, the PM’s lawyers obtained the leave of the Singapore Court to serve the Writ of Summons out of jurisdiction on her. If the PM could have sued this foreigner based in Malaysia, Lim Tean questioned why he did not sue The Coverage Malaysia or The States Times Review as both sites are also based overseas. Lee Hsien Loong also did not instruct his lawyers to send these media outlets a letter of claim.
Secondly Lim Tean raised doubts about the independence of the expert witness Dr Phan Tuan Quang. When Lim Tean cross-examined Dr Phan, he challenged that the expert could not be totally independent. Lim Tean discovered that Dr Phan was part of a team that had obtained a $8.2 million research grant from the Ministry Of Education (MOE) which the doctor was teaching at NUS in 2018. Lim Tean also found that received a significant MOE research grant even as he is currently teaching at the University of Hong Kong. This complicates matters as Lee Hsien Loong is the head of the government which had offered grants to Dr Phan’s projects.
Lim Tean has raised some interesting points and is putting up a strong defence even though he is facing five lawyers from Davinder Singh Chambers LLC.