M Ravi argues that Lees’ bad reputations are relevant to assessment of damages

May 22, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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Lawyer M Ravi, counsel for the SDP, argues that Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s and Mr Lee Hsien Loong’s attempt to strike out the defendants’ Affidavit of Evidence in Chief (AEIC) is a “desperate attempt to cripple the Defendants’ case.”

The Lees’ striking-out application is being heard today in chambers before Judge Belinda Ang. The defendants have applied for this application to be heard in open court.

The defamation suit is over an article that the Singapore Democrats published about the NKF scandal and comparing it with the way Singapore is run.

Summary judgment was given to the Lees. The stage is set for the hearing of the amount of damages the defendants have to pay. Both sides have submitted their arguments in the form of AEICs.

The defence case is that the plaintiffs have inflated their reputations by controlling the media and silencing their critics.

The Lees’ are objecting to this and have applied to strike out the AEICs. They claim that the affidavits are irrelevant and scandalous.

Mr Ravi points out that the AEICs must be allowed because the law states that plaintiffs’ bad reputations as well as the contextual background in which the publication came to be made are relevant.

Counsel adds that “the Plaintiffs resent opposition, are dictatorial, and are publicly and bitterly ill-disposed towards the Defendants” and that the NKF article was written within this context.

In addition, the Lees’ want to stike out former solicitor-general Francis Seow’s AEIC in support of the defendants.

Mr Ravi, however, cited the case of Associated Newspapers v Dingle (1962) where it was held that, “in order to show that a man has a bad reputation, it is preferable to call those who know him and have had dealings with him.

Mr Francis Seow is a former Solicitor-General of Singapore who had close dealings with the Second Plaintiff (Mr Lee Kuan Yew) over many years.

Citing the case of Dato Aw Kow v Haw Par Bros (Pte) Ltd & Anor (1972-1974) Mr Ravi also argues that matters raised in AEICs are only scandalous if they are “unnecessary.”

In closing, defence counsel argues that “the Plaintiffs are labouring under an illusion that they are living in an era where there is no existence of the internet as a viable source of free media.

“It is true that the previous defamation suits were won at a time when internet was at its infant stage. The internet encompasses free expression of opinions and its assessment of the Plaintiffs’ reputation cannot be dismissed by the courts just because they are adverse to the government and its members.

“In fact, the internet would give a less biased picture of the Plaintiffs’ reputation than the government controlled media.”

Read the full text of Mr Ravi’s submissions here.