The High Court granted approval for the Attorney General’s Chambers to carry out the committal proceedings against Mr Li Sheng Wu the son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, for contempt of court over comments made in a private Facebook post.
Earlier in a warning letter to Mr Li on 21 july, AGC claimed that Mr Li made “false and baseless allegations” about the lack of independence of the Singapore Judiciary in his private Facebook post made on 15 July 2017, asking him to “purge the contempt” by deleting the post from his Facebook page and other online platforms by 5pm, 28 July. He was also asked to “issue and post prominently” on his Facebook page a written apology and undertaking drafted by the AGC.
On 28 July, AGC wrote to the press, noting that it went ahead to file an application for leave in the High Court to commence committal proceedings for contempt against him as Mr Li has failed to purge the contempt and to apologise by the deadline.
According to Senior State Counsel Francis Ng, permission was granted by Justice Kannan Ramesh on Monday (21 Aug) in a closed door hearing. The AGC has now 14 days to file an order of committal against Mr Li. A hearing can go on whether or not Mr Li or his lawyers are present.
Following the news that the High Court has granted its approval to AGC, Mr Li went on his Facebook to share two letters, one a letter from AGC to Mr Li dated 8 August and the other, a letter from Mr Li to AGC on 18 August.
In the letter from AGC to Mr Li, AGC demanded him to apologise and undertake not to repeat the allegations or make further similar allegations and that his assertions were wrong, and are in contempt of the Singapore Judiciary. In exchange for his compliance, it expressed that it is prepared to discontinue the legal proceedings it has filed against him.
In the other letter by Mr Li to AGC, he contests the claims made by AGC.
Mr Li noted that AGC has relied on an unverified screenshot of his private facebook page in making its allegations and demands. He highlights that he had already made clear in a public post on 4 August that his private post, if read in context, did not attack the Singapore Judiciary.
“Any criticism I made was in good faith, and was aimed at the Singapore government’s litigious nature and its use of legal rules and actions to stifle the free press. I said I had amended my private post so as to clarify my meaning.”
He further notes that he had explained in his response letter to AGC of 4 August, that AGC took what it believed, without verification, was his private post completely out of context and attributed to him statements he did not make.
Mr Li wrote, “I did not make any assertions in contempt of the Singapore Judiciary. AGC’s latest demands require that I make statements that are untrue and contradict my public post and my response to AGC of 4 August, and require that I apologise for assertions that I did not make. ” and emphasised that he cannot confess to a crime he did not commit in return for a discontinuance of the legal proceedings against him.
He notes that AGC also continues to ignore that his post on 15 July is private and what he said in it is meant for his friends only. “My amendment to the post is also private: it remains inaccessible to anyone other than my friends. I am not responsible for the widespread and unauthorised public publication of the contents of my original post, which AGC complains is in contempt of the Singapore judiciary.”
Mr Li pointed out that AGC had sparked widespread publication and republication of his post by making public comment on on 17 July based on an unverified screenshot from an anonymous source. “Even on 4 August, when I made a public post, I did not repeat the words in my private post that AGC complains are in contempt: I instead made it clear that I did not attack the Singapore Judiciary and had amended the post to clarify my meaning. AGC however in its press statement thereafter made public the words it complains of. ” And though Mr Li’s response letter was delivered to AGC before its press statement, AGC did not make his response public.
It was also pointed out that AGC changed its stance from demanding Mr Li to delete and remove his 15 July private post from his “Facebook page and any other social/online media and other documents in your possession, custody or control” to not having to delete his private post as since he has amended it.
Mr Li argues, given that AGC prosecutes him over a private post which he had clarified and amended, AGC should prosecute Singapore’s mainstream media, and require that they take down their unauthorized publication and republication of the contents of his original post.
Mr Li also found fault with AGC’s statement that his response letter was only received by AGC after 5pm on Friday, 4 August. “That is incorrect. My response letter was hand-delivered to AGC at 4.40pm on Friday, 4 August. This will be borne out by the footage from AGC’s security cameras. I request that AGC correct the false statement that it made to the media.”