SINGAPORE — The chief editor of The Online Citizen (TOC), Terry Xu, said on Wednesday (4 September) that he won’t be complying with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s demands for him to apologise by the same day and immediately remove the TOC article referencing the Lee family feud.
On Sunday, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) wrote to Xu regarding the article’s “false allegations” about the feud and asked the online publication to immediately remove the article from TOC’s website and Facebook page. The PMO also demanded that Xu publicly issue a “full and unconditional apology” by Wednesday and an undertaking not to publish any similar allegations.
Should Xu fail to do so, “PM Lee will have no choice but to hand the matter over to his lawyers to sue to enforce his full rights in law,” the PMO letter added.
In his reply to PM Lee posted on TOC’s Facebook page, Xu said, “Although I do fear that the cost stemming from the possible legal suit from you may be hefty, that is a price that I am willing to pay to not only uphold my principles, but also to uphold my obligations to Singapore and my fellow Singaporeans.”
Xu said that the contents in the TOC article “are not defamatory”.
The article, which is still online as of Wednesday night, made reference to a Facebook post by PM Lee’s wife, Ho Ching, in which she shared a Healthy Holistic Living article entitled “Here’s Why Sometimes It Is Okay to Cut Ties with Toxic Family Members”.
In addition, the TOC article also wrote about the allegations made by PM Lee’s siblings, Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang, concerning their sharp disagreements with their eldest brother about the family home at 38 Oxley Road and the final will drawn up by their late father and Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.
The PMO letter accused TOC of making libellous allegations in its article.
“PM Lee has chosen thus far not to sue his siblings. As he told Parliament, suing them would further besmirch his parents’ names, and was therefore not his preferred course of action.
“PM Lee also made clear to Parliament that under any other circumstances, he would have sued immediately, and that his decision not to sue his siblings then did not mean that he would not ever take legal action, should this become necessary.”
The decision not to sue his siblings “should not be misinterpreted by others as free licence to repeat and spread false and defamatory allegations against him”.
In concluding his statement on his non-compliance with PM Lee’s demands, Xu said, “I stand guided by my love for Singapore and Singaporeans. It is my moral obligation to help dissipate the climate of fear that permeates discourse in Singapore to ensure a more open, vibrant and robust society for the future of Singapore.”