Friday, December 28, 2018

A Singaporean Blogger Fights Back

A blogger is fighting back after Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong (left) sued him for defamation in December for sharing an article titled “Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB’s key investigation target” on Facebook. 

The said piece, originally published in a Malaysian news portal – according to Malaysia’s New Straits Times, December 27, 2018 – had carried allegations: 

(1) That PM Lee had “secret deals” and “unfair agreements” with Malaysia’s former PM Najib Razak, such as the Singapore-Malaysia High Speed Rail and the water sale agreement, “in exchange for Singapore banks’ assistance in money laundering 1MDB funds”; (2) That Singapore was “forced” to reopen the 1MDB investigation after the new government was voted in; and (3) That PM Lee refused to be interviewed by the Malaysian government as part of the 1MDB investigation. 

[Note: Malaysia’s FMT reported on the same day too that it was Singapore’s States Times Review that first published the article, and it was then picked up by Malaysian news portal The Coverage on November 07]. 

It doesn’t matter who is correct because all this while, Lee has staunchly maintained that the news piece was false and totally without basis and that weblogger Leong Sze Hian (right) had intentionally reposted the link to smear the prime minister’s reputation. 

Already, the Monetary Authority of Singapore had filed a report with the Singapore Police Force against the author of that November 05 article published in which it deems “false and malicious, and impugns the integrity of MAS as a financial regulator”. 

Singapore has long been criticized for collaring free speech and curbing other political rights. Not only that, the city-state slaps critics with financially ruinous libel suits. 

And since the country's media scene is pro-government – how else then to chew out the people in power unless you do it online? 

Therefore, the government pay careful attention for anything written about them online. Leong was not the only target. In this month too, Terry Xu (left), editor of Singapore news site The Online Citizen, was charged with defamation for publishing a letter that alleged corruption among the natonal leadership. 

But it is not always one-way. Leong, a regular critic of the government, has, in fact, lodged a counterclaim against Lee for alleged abuse of the court system. 

"The predominant purpose of the claim is the use of the legal process to chill freedom of expression in Singapore", said Leong in his suit, which was posted on Facebook Wednesday along with details of his defence. 

He said all he had done was to make the article available on his social media page "without embellishment or comment" for less than three days. 

It is said that Singapore, being regularly ranked among the world's least corrupt countries, is sensitive to any accusations of graft. That may be so – but muzzling their citizens won’t do! 

I was at the IJM Toastmasters meting on Thursday – where I was fortunate to be given a speaking slot as well as take up the role of Table Topics Evaluator.

I'm working towards my ACB award and so, I delivered an Advanced speech from the Humorously Speaking manual, assignment #1 titled On a Leash. 

I had brought along Bernard, my pet roach. 

And although that particular speech wasn't as good as I wanted it to be   (my opinion only!)  I was still voted Best Speaker. 

It is noteworthy to mention that Sajni Dharamdass was my evaluator – and this was not the first time, she was entrusted with the job. Believe me when I say that her evaluation skills are steadily making solid progress. 

When you evaluate me, you will only improve!

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