Singapore blogger removes post about PM, dithers on apology

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (C) arrives at a welcome dinner as part of the 24th ASEAN summit in Naypyidaw, Myanmar on May 10, 2014

A Singaporean blogger accused by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of defamation has removed the offending post but said Tuesday he was still deliberating whether to apologise. "I took down the article last night on the advice of my lawyer," Roy Ngerng Yi Ling told AFP. He also removed links to the article posted on his two Facebook pages. "We are still deliberating on the next course of action," he said, declining to comment on whether he would apologise as demanded by Lee. Lee's lawyer Davinder Singh on Sunday wrote to Ngerng, a 33-year-old healthcare worker, demanding an apology and compensation for a May 15 blog post seen as accusing the premier of corruption. The lawyer said the commentary penned by Ngerng "means and is understood to mean that Mr Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore and the chairman of GIC, is guilty of criminal misappropriation of the monies paid by Singaporeans to the CPF (Central Provident Fund)". GIC is a sovereign wealth fund that manages more than $100 billion of the city-state's foreign reserves. CPF is the state pension fund. Singh said the article constituted a serious libel against Lee, and asked that it as well as the links be removed. Apart from an apology to be posted by Wednesday, Singh also stipulated that Ngerng must make a "written offer of damages and costs". Ngerng has said the article was meant to call for greater transparency on how CPF funds are invested by the government through GIC and state investment firm Temasek Holdings. Lee's demand for an apology has drawn mixed reactions from Singapore's vocal online community. Some accused Ngerng of posting material without verifying facts, while others sympathised with him. Singapore has ranked top in surveys as one of the world's least corrupt countries. But international human rights groups have regularly accused its leaders, including Lee's father and former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, of using financially ruinous libel actions to silence critics and political opponents. Singapore leaders have countered that the lawsuits are necessary to protect their reputations.