Blogger Roy Ngerng and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong traded barbs in court on Wednesday, with the latter getting increasingly and visibly exasperated by Ngerng’s long list of questions during over seven hours of cross-examination.
Lee took the stand on the first day of a scheduled three-day court hearing to determine the amount of damages that Ngerng will be ordered to pay after the court found in November 2014 that Ngerng had defamed Lee by implying that he had misappropriated money from the Central Provident Fund (CPF).
While Lee’s lawyers asserted that they had a “compelling” case for a “very high award of damages”, Ngerng’s opening statement submitted that “awarding a disproportionately high amount of damages… would cast a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Singapore.”
Ngerng was representing himself after having discharged his previous counsel George Hwang, who he described to The Online Citizen as having been “excellent.”
“However, I felt that as this is my case, I think it’s best to represent myself and fight for myself. My intention never was to defame the Prime Minister and it has always been to advocate on the transparency and accountability of the CPF, and I hope the court will be able to see that,” he told TOC.
He was assisted by four friends: Leong Sze Hian, Han Hui Hui, Janet Low and Tan Yun You. None of them are legally trained.
Ngerng was a little taken aback by how quickly he was able to cross-examine the Prime Minister, saying that it was “a bit faster than I imagined.” He began by once again apologising: “When I wrote the article there was no intent to defame you.”
What followed were long, grinding hours of questioning as Ngerng attempted to establish facts and pick out details related to his blog post, YouTube video, emails to the press and Lee’s responses.
“I’m not here to dispute the judgement,” he said, adding that he simply wanted to prove that there had been no malicious intent in his blog post – a key factor for the court when deciding on damages.
Reproduced half with permission from The Online Citizen.
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