Roy Ngerng to pay $150,000 in damages to PM Lee over 17 years


Blogger Roy Ngerng Photo: Mohd Fyrol/AFP News

It will take blogger Roy Ngerng a total of 17 years to pay damages of $150,000 to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, via monthly instalments of $100 that will increase to $1,000 after five years.

“The settlement terms were agreed on late last week,” Suang Wijaya, an associate with the firm representing Ngerng, 34, on a pro bono basis, told Yahoo Singapore on Monday (14 March). It was reached “following a period of negotiation between the parties’ solicitors on behalf of the Prime Minister and Roy Ngerng respectively,” said Wijaya from Eugene Thuraisingam LLP.

From 1 April, the Reform Party member will pay $100 a month for five years until 2021. He will then pay $1,000 a month until the full sum has been paid out. This means that Ngerng should finish paying the full amount by 2033, when Lee is 81 and Ngerng 51.

The interest on Ngerng’s monthly payments is a default rate, provided by the court, of 5.33 per cent per annum. But no interest has to be paid if Ngerng makes each payment on time.

In response to Yahoo Singapore’s queries, Lee’s press secretary Chang Li Lin said Ngerng had asked to be let off by paying only $36,000 out of the costs plus $150,000 in damages.

She added, “The PM had responded to say that Mr Ngerng had to discharge his entire debt, but that he was prepared to give Mr Ngerng time to pay the $150,000 by instalments, provided Mr Ngerng paid the costs immediately.”

Ngerng has been given till this Wednesday (16 March) to pay the costs of the assessment of damages hearing, which has been agreed at $30,000.

Lawyers that Yahoo Singapore spoke to said that while the duration of the payment might seem unusually long, it was up to the parties involved to work out a mutually acceptable arrangement. In cases of debt or judgement sums, some parties are prepared to accept lesser sums over shorter time frames.

But James Ong, director of Ong & Shan LLC and a lawyer with 11 years experience, noted, "The method and duration of payment of damages and costs are usually privately agreed between parties. It is usually not publicised. This arrangement is unusual because the party receiving the damages and costs is normally unlikely to agree to such an extended period of payment.“

In a Facebook post on Monday, Ngerng appealed to the public for help with paying his legal costs. He added, “These 2 years since I was sued hasn’t been easy. There have been ups and downs. I am just glad that it started a conversation on the CPF and some enhancements were made to the CPF.

“But I have learnt some lessons as well. I should have been careful with how I say things. I am thankful to have reached the settlement with the Prime Minister.”

Last December, Ngerng was ordered to pay Lee $150,000 for defamation after Justice Lee Seiu Kin said it was likely that the blogger “cynically defamed” the Prime Minister in a bid to increase viewership of his blog, The Heart Truths. Lee was awarded $100,000 in general damages and $50,000 in aggravated damages.

Lee sued Ngerng in May 2014 over a blog post that accused the 64-year-old of misusing money from the state pension scheme, the Central Provident Fund (CPF)

In July 2015, Ngerng broke down in court under intense questioning from Lee’s lawyer Davinder Singh. He claimed that he was being persecuted for speaking up, but also apologised for defaming Lee.