Indian-origin ministers seek to have their case against Lee Hsien Yang heard in Singapore

Singapore’s Indian-origin ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan seek to have their defamation suits against Lee Hsien Yang, the younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, heard in Singapore, according to affidavits filed.

Lee Hsien Yang (in the picture), younger brother of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, claimed that he was simply stating facts about K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan, and that the ministers should sue him in a UK court. Photo courtesy: Instagram/progresssingaporeparty

The defamation case stems from Yang’s allegations relating to Law and Home Affairs Minister Shanmugam and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan renting two state-owned bungalows.

“In so far as the defendant is suggesting that Singapore is not the most appropriate forum for the trial of my claims, or that the United Kingdom is a more appropriate forum than Singapore, that is baseless,” quoted Channel News Asia from Shanmugam’s affidavit in a report yesterday.

Both affidavits were made in support of the ministers’ applications to serve papers on Lee Hsien Yang out of Singapore.

In a Facebook post on July 27, Shanmugam said that Lee Hsien Yang had accused him and Balakrishnan of “acting corruptly and for personal gain by having Singapore Land Authority (SLA) give us preferential treatment by illegally felling trees without approval, and also having SLA pay for renovations to 26 and 31 Ridout Road”.

Both Cabinet ministers sent lawyers’ letters to Yang on July 27, saying that they would sue unless he apologised, withdrew his allegations and paid SGD 25,000 in damages that would be donated to charity. Yang did not comply with the demands.

Lee Hsien Yang and his wife Lee Suet Fern left Singapore after declining to attend a police interview in July 2022 over a different matter. On August 28, the two ministers applied to serve court papers to Lee Hsien Yang via Facebook Messenger; they said that it was impractical to serve papers to him personally in the United Kingdom.

The application involves serving the papers in PDF and includes an order that service in such a manner is deemed “good and sufficient service of the court papers on the defendant”. Shanmugam’s and Balakrishnan’s lawyers have been unable to ascertain Yang’s UK address, according to the affidavits.

After failing to comply with the conditions in the letters of demand sent on July 27, Yang said in a Facebook post two days later that he was simply stating the facts. He added that the two ministers should sue him in a UK court.

The ministers then filed separate defamation suits in Singapore’s High Court on August 2. The same day, their lawyers sent a letter to Yang via Facebook Messenger, informing him that defamation proceedings have commenced against him in the Singapore courts.

Yang was asked to let them know by August 3 if he would be engaging lawyers to aid him in the proceedings. He did not reply.

In separate Statements of Claim, both ministers stated that Yang’s claim in the post was “false and baseless and was calculated to disparage and impugn” both the men and their ministerial offices.