Singapore PM awarded nearly S$88,000 in costs after winning defamation suits against The Online Citizen chief editor, writer

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) and Mr Terry Xu (right), chief editor of The Online Citizen. — TODAY file pic
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) and Mr Terry Xu (right), chief editor of The Online Citizen. — TODAY file pic

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SINGAPORE, Oct 14 — The High Court yesterday awarded Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong S$87,833 in costs and disbursements related to two defamation lawsuits he successfully mounted against Mr Terry Xu, chief editor of the now-offline sociopolitical site The Online Citizen (TOC), and the writer of a defamatory article.

Justice Audrey Lim held a hearing in chambers on costs in both suits after her ruling on Sept 1 in which she awarded S$210,000 in total damages to Mr Lee, who had sued Mr Xu and the article’s writer, Ms Rubaashini Shunmuganathan.

Mr Xu’s lawyer, Mr Lim Tean, put up a Facebook post after the hearing, detailing the court’s decision and appealing to members of the public to donate to Mr Xu’s crowdfunding campaign.

The campaign has since reportedly raised more than S$210,000.

TODAY has separately confirmed the court’s ruling on costs and disbursements.

In response to media queries, the prime minister’s press secretary, Ms Chang Li Lin, reiterated that Mr Lee will donate to charity the damages that he has been awarded.

The lawsuits arose from an article published in TOC in August 2019 about Mr Lee’s family home at 38 Oxley Road.

The TOC article had repeated false allegations that had previously been made by Mr Lee’s siblings and alleged dishonesty on Mr Lee’s part.

It was judged to lead its readers to believe that Mr Lee had misled his father into thinking that 38 Oxley Road had been gazetted as a heritage building and it was futile to demolish it, which then led Lee Kuan Yew to change his will to bequeath the house to Mr Lee.

The article had also alleged that Lee Kuan Yew had removed Mr Lee as an executor and trustee of his will after learning in late 2013 that the property had not been gazetted.

Mr Lee’s position is that his father had decided as early as July 2011 to remove him as executor.

The court ruled the defamatory statements made in the article to be “grave and serious” as they “do not merely attack his (Mr Lee’s) personal integrity, character and reputation, but that of the prime minister, and damage his moral authority to lead Singapore”.

Mr Xu was found to have acted with malice, and in publishing the article as chief editor of TOC, which had held itself out as a news organisation, was “reckless and irresponsible”. — TODAY

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