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Former Singapore PM Sibling Directed to Pay Rs 1.3 Crore to Indian Heritage Ministers

In a significant legal development, the High Court of Singapore has delivered a verdict in a defamation case involving Lee Hsien Yang, the younger brother of former Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and two Indian-origin ministers, K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan. Lee Hsien Yang has been ordered to pay SGD 200,000 (approximately Rs 1.2 crore) to each of the ministers, following a lawsuit filed against him over defamatory remarks made on social media.

The legal battle ensued after Lee Hsien Yang posted comments on his Facebook page, suggesting corrupt practices by the ministers in their rental of state properties located in a posh area of Singapore. The remarks, made on July 23, 2021, accused the ministers of receiving preferential treatment from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) regarding the rental agreements for properties on Ridout Road.

In his judgment released recently, Justice Goh Yihan provided insights into the reasoning behind the decision to award damages to the ministers. The court found Lee Hsien Yang's comments to be malicious and false, indicating a deliberate attempt to tarnish the reputation of the ministers. Moreover, despite being represented by legal counsel, Lee Hsien Yang failed to appear in court to defend himself against the allegations.

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The case drew attention due to the high-profile nature of the individuals involved. K Shanmugam serves as Singapore's Law and Home Affairs Minister, while Vivian Balakrishnan holds the portfolio of Foreign Affairs Minister. Their reputations and integrity were called into question by Lee Hsien Yang's remarks, prompting them to pursue legal recourse to protect their names and honor.

Justice Goh Yihan emphasized the seriousness of defamation and its implications, particularly when directed at public figures. Lee Hsien Yang's failure to retract or clarify his statements despite the absence of evidence supporting his claims exacerbated the gravity of the situation. The court's decision reflects the importance of upholding the integrity of public officials and deterring unfounded allegations that could undermine public trust in government institutions.

Furthermore, Justice Goh considered various factors in determining the quantum of damages awarded to the ministers. Lee Hsien Yang's social media following and his status as a prominent figure in Singaporean society were taken into account. Additionally, the court highlighted Lee Hsien Yang's failure to demonstrate remorse or accountability for his actions as aggravating factors warranting higher damages.

In addition to the damages awarded, Lee Hsien Yang has been instructed to bear the legal costs incurred by the ministers in pursuing the defamation lawsuit. This serves as a reminder of the consequences of making baseless allegations against public figures and underscores the importance of accountability in public discourse.

The verdict underscores Singapore's commitment to upholding the rule of law and ensuring that individuals are held accountable for their actions, particularly when they involve damaging the reputations of others. As the legal proceedings conclude, it serves as a reminder of the significance of responsible communication and the consequences of spreading false information, particularly in the age of social media.

May 25, 2024 11:30 a.m. 462

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