Blogger Roy Ngerng spent Thursday in the witness box as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s lawyer Davinder Singh carried out a precise, methodical cross-examination, claiming that Ngerng’s expressions of remorse and apology were “false”.
It was the second gruelling day of cross-examinations in the hearing to assess the amount of damages to be paid to PM Lee. Ngerng had spent Wednesday subjecting the Prime Minister himself to seven hours of questioning.
Ngerng once again insisted that he had never had any intention to defame the PM by suggesting that he had personally criminally misappropriated monies from the Central Provident Fund (CPF), and that it was the government – not Lee himself – that he was criticising over the management of the CPF.
Singh’s assertion was that Ngerng had knowingly drawn links between allegations of criminal misappropriation of funds in the City Harvest Church trial and the management of CPF money.
However, Ngerng repeatedly drew distinctions between his criticism of the government for their management of the CPF, and defamation of PM Lee.
He lost his patience at one point in the afternoon, exclaiming, “If I defamed the government, let the government sue me!” before telling Singh not to “make a case for the government because you’re not here as part of [the Attorney-General’s Chambers].”
Singh went on to suggest that Ngerng’s blog post was “very carefully constructed” to tell his readers that Lee, both as Prime Minister and the chairman of GIC, had misappropriated funds.
“Your claim to innocence is contrived,” Singh declared, accusing Ngerng of evading questions.
He went on to suggest that Ngerng had deliberately sensationalised his blog post for personal gain, saying that he was “consumed” by his desire to be a “champion of the CPF issue.”
“I am a champion because the Prime Minister sued me and made me the face of the CPF,” Ngerng retorted.
Singh also accused Ngerng of using the first Letter of Demand sent to him to gain publicity and attention, citing subsequent blog posts, emails and a YouTube video created by the latter as evidence that he was “out to hurt” Lee, and that the Letter of Demand was used to “further twist the knife.”
The integrity of Ngerng’s remorse was then questioned, with Singh claiming that Ngerng was “saying one thing but doing another” by telling the international media that he was being persecuted even while he apologised to Lee for the defamatory blog post.
Ngerng admitted that emails sent to the international media containing links to the defamatory post were a “lapse of judgement”, but pointed out that other articles Lee took issue with had not been deemed defamatory, and that he was therefore not committing any specific wrongdoing by drawing attention to them.
Friday marks the final day scheduled for the court hearing. Singh will continue his cross-examination before both parties make submissions.