Lee Hsien Yang, the younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has donated to the crowdfunding campaign by blogger Leong Sze Hian to fund his defence and counterclaim against PM Lee in the latter’s defamation suit.
The younger Lee confirmed with Yahoo News Singapore on Wednesday (26 December) that he had contributed to Leong’s legal funds but didn’t specify the amount.
Separately, Leong told The Online Citizen that many had expressed interest in contributing towards his legal funds and some had already done so. He added that he hoped to have 10,000 people contributing $1 each towards his campaign.
Earlier Wednesday, Leong, who is a financial adviser, announced on Facebook that he had filed his defence and counterclaim against PM Lee.
“Whilst it may be my name on the case file, this action is bigger than my name, bigger than just the one ordinary Singaporean that I am,” wrote Leong.
“It is for every Singaporean today who has ever shared a post on Facebook, for every child who will share a post on Facebook and for the unborn generations to come.”
A copy of a two-page statement by Carson Law Chambers, the firm representing Leong in the case, as well as Leong’s defence and counterclaim were also attached to his Facebook post.
The statement, signed off by Peoples Voice leader and lawyer Lim Tean, was similarly posted on Carson Law Chambers’ Facebook page on Wednesday.
PM Lee is suing Leong for sharing an article by The Coverage, a Malaysian portal, alleging that the former had helped ex-Malaysian PM Najib Razak to launder money in the 1MDB scandal. Leong had posted a link to the article on his Facebook on 7 November this year.
The original version of the article, titled “Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB’s key investigation target”, had been published by sociopolitical website States Times Review two days earlier and was later shared on its Facebook page.
In a letter by Drew & Napier dated 12 November, Lee’s lawyers mentioned the article claimed that Lee “corruptly used his position as Prime Minister to help Mr Najib Razak launder 1MDB’s billions” and that he was “complicit in criminal activity relating to 1MDB”.
The lawyers asserted that the words in the article were “false and baseless, and were calculated to disparage and impugn the plaintiff in his office as the prime minister”.
In response to media queries, Lee’s press secretary Chang Li Lin said that “the matter is before the courts and that the Prime Minister will continue to take legal advice on developments”.
Lim, who runs Carson, described PM Lee’s claim as “an abuse of the process of the court”. He highlighted in the statement that no legal action has been brought against The Coverage or The States Times Review, Facebook or any other individual Singaporean “who took the same action as our client”.
“In his defence and counterclaim, Leong Sze Hian pleads that he only had the post up for three days and removed it immediately upon receipt of an order from the IMDA (Info-communications Media Development Authority),” said Lim.
“He challenged the Prime Minister’s case on meaning, on the extent of publication and re-publication and on malice.” He added, “He (Leong) does not assert that what the article said or is alleged to have said was true.”
The purpose of PM Lee’s claim is believed “to chill freedom of speech ahead of both the trial of Najib Razak and a likely General Election in Singapore next year”, Lim’s statement concluded.
According to Leong’s 17-page defence and counterclaim, he is seeking compensation for damage to his reputation.