Photo credit: Tan Yunyou
This morning, I went to court for (1) the hearing on how much the prime minister wants me to pay his lawyers for the summary judgment and (2) for the pre-trial conference – to set the dates for the hearing on how much damages I would need to pay the prime minister for the defamation suit.
(1) Hearing on How Much to Pay Prime Minister’s Lawyers for Summary Judgment
At the hearing, the the prime minister wanted me to pay to his lawyers $49,027.61, including for filing fees.
However, the usual range of legal fees to pay is usually only between $5,000 and $15,000.
My lawyers had asked for $13,000.
Prime Minister Wants Me to Pay His Lawyers for “Additional” Work and “Indemnity”
The prime minister wants me to pay more than the usual amount because he said that his lawyers had done “additional” work and because of “indemnity”.
His lawyer, Davinder Singh, argued today that their lawyers have done “additional” work because they had to research where the article (that I was sued for) was republished, and needed to prove that people had downloaded and accessed the article, so that they could show the extent of damage that was done.
He also said that I had made the matter “unnecessarily complicated” because he said that I knew I was wrong but I made the prime minister to prove that he is not, so there was also “additional” work that their lawyers had to do.
Ravi also told reporters later that, “the prime minister’s lawyers tried to say that (I) have tried to collaterally damage the prime minister. He is asking for one third (more than the normal scale for the legal fees) to punish me.”
Prime Minister said His Lawyers had to Do “Additional” Work to Apply for Injunction to Stop Me from Talking about CPF
Davinder also said that at the summary judgment last September, they had applied for an injunction to stop me from talking about the CPF. He said that I was not willing to accept the injunction, so their lawyers also had to do “additional” work to prove that I should be given an injunction.
But my lawyer, Eugene Thuraisingam, reminded the court that the injunction had said that “the court must bear in mind that the injunction should be carefully worded and sufficiently circumscribed such that it would not overreach and thereby infringe upon the right to freedom of speech or have a chilling effect”.
He also wants to “make it clear that (I) remain free to exercise (my) rights to freedom of speech under Art 14 of the Constitution, save for the repetition of the allegation that has been found to be defamatory in these proceedings”.
As such, I “should be able to make statements of the prime minister and the ruling party (PAP) so long as I do no break any written law”.
Eugene then pointed out that in my subsequent articles, what I have done was to question if it is right that the prime minister sue me in his capacity as the prime minister, as he is not allowed to. Also, I have also kept questioning about the lack of transparency on how Singaporeans’ CPF is being managed, and of the MAS, GIC and Temasek Holdings.
I did not say anything that is defamatory or against the law.
It is my right to do be able to speak freely, as enshrined under the constitution.
Moreover, my lawyer, M Ravi, also explained that the summary judgment in September last year was not a “complicated” hearing. The court arguments were “straightforward”.
“If (Davinder) was doing too much work, it should not be (my) problem,” Ravi said.
Prime Minister Took Issue with My Articles about My Personal Experience to Say I Attacked Him
The prime minister also took issue with some of my other articles.
As mentioned yesterday, there were some articles that I had written which were my heartfelt sharing of my own personal experience but the prime minister said that I was “attacking” him in these articles.
Davinder also referred to an article where I had said that “I am disappointed with the prime minister.”
“We have lived in fear for too long.
“This is not morally right (to sue an ordinary citizen),” I had also said.
But Eugene refuted this and said that I had intended to “pour my heart out” in these articles. I had also talked about how I was made to lose my job, for example. And most importantly, I spoke about the CPF.
The prime minister’s lawyer said that I wanted to “destroy” the prime minister but it was never my intention.
I wanted to talk about the CPF.
Eugene also said that I have always commented on public matters because these are matters of public concern.
Moreover, Ravi said that an indemnity can only be asked when one has been dishonest or runs a frivolous defence.
I have done neither.
Prime Minister Said I Kept “Shifting” My Position
But the prime minister also said that I kept “shifting” the “meaning” of my article and “changed my position”.
However, Eugene explained that my argument has always been consistent, that “there is no transparency in the manner which CPF monies were invested by the Government, MAS, Temasek Holdings and/or GIC” and that, “The legal retention of profits derived from the investing of CPF monies by GIC and Temasek, by the Government is simply not fair to Singaporeans”.
Judge Wanted Me to Pay $20,000 to Prime Minister’s Lawyers
However, Judge Lee Seiu Kin ruled that there is no reason for indemnity. He also said that there is no reason to depart from the scale for legal fees (of between $5,000 to $15,000). However, he said that the costs should be at the higher end of the scale.
As such, I was asked to pay $20,000 to the prime minister’s lawyers, and an additional $9,000 for filing fees.
Photo credit: Tan Yunyou
(2) Pre-Trial Conference to Set Dates for Hearing on How Much Damages to Pay Prime Minister
Today, the pre-trial conference was also held to decide on the dates for the hearing on how much damages I would need to pay the prime minister for the defamation suit.
Last year, the prime minister had wanted to have a closed-door trial but my lawyers managed to fight for an open trial.
Today, the prime minister then wanted to only have one day of trial.
However, my lawyers asked for 3 days.
Initially, the court said in a letter that it is only available from July to August.
However, Davinder said that he has other trials from July to September and wanted to change the dates for the trial.
He wanted to move it earlier to May.
My lawyer, Ravi, explained that he has hearings in May and would not be able to do so.
The court then suggested holding the hearing between 10 and 16 October.
But Davinder then suggested holding the hearing in two separate parts. However, Ravi rejected as he does not want the prime minister to be able to have time to do his “homework”.
In end, the court then said that it could have some dates available for the end of June and will inform us of the dates again.
The prime minister has filed for the defamation suit in the high court, which oversees cases of more than $250,000, so this is at least what I am expected to lose.