By anyhowhantam — In the latest twist in the Roy Ng v Lee Hsien Loong (the PM) saga, he’s actively seeking donations from the public to fund his legal defense.
He’s thus far raised close to $50,000 in 3 days and in order to be accountable and transparent, he says he’ll publish a daily update of all monies received. (which he has done on his Facebook (FB) page). He’s not only provided a bank account number, but has gone the ‘full monty’ – he’s provided his home address (for cheques), Paypal account, transfer instructions for internet banking and even got his father to open an OCBC bank account (for those without a POSBank/DBS savings account). And for his June 7th protest, ‘buckets’ will passed around for donations. He’s clearly spent a great deal of effort and time to go all out to raise funds, clearly much more effort and time than he had spent trying avoid this stage (getting sued), or on working with the PM’s lawyer to settle the matter out of court.
He’s the first person who has resorted to such a broad based appeal to raise funds for a legal defense in a lawsuit by a PAP leader. J B Jeyaretnam and Chee Soon Juan did not resort to this. When sued, they raised funds from their own party members and well-wishers or took steps on their own, like writing and selling their books. Even fellow blogger Alex Au who’s facing a contempt of court case initiated by the Attorney General’s Chambers, did not resort to such desperate measures. He did not go crying to Singaporeans begging for money. If you wanna help, fine, he’ll provide details but he was prepared to defend what he said on his accord first and foremost, using his own means. Although Chee Soon Juan also made a public appeal to help raise funds, this was done long after the lawsuit was heard and the monies was not to pay his lawyers, but to pay off damages in order to clear him from bankruptcy. He spent a number of years as a bankrupt, and as a Party Leader, this severely handicapped him from performing his duties and of course standing for elections. Finally as a last resort after exhausting all avenues, he made the public pitch. He did not as Mr Ng has done, shamelessly portrayed himself as a victim and went running to the public for their money at the first instance.
Since Mr Ng has made a public appeal and has received monies from strangers, it’s only fair and proper that he give a full account of why he has done so and how much more will he be seeking in future. He himself has said he’s wants to be open, transparent and accountable, so it’s only fair that he explains his actions after receiving the letter of demand, from his instructions to his lawyer, the advise he received, his subsequent actions and why he abruptly stopped when his first offer was rejected and instructed his lawyer to ‘accept service’ (of the lawsuit). What his motivations are and why he decided to go to court and get the public to fund his defense, when he has no money? In all his explanations and actions since this matter erupted, he’s done everything but provide reasons for doing this. He’s expressed disappointment, sought sympathy, given clarifications and denials (on seeking asylum), says he’s fighting for his fellow Singaporeans, made an appeal for funds and made public, correspondence between his lawyer and the PM’s (SC Davinder Singh). If he could do all these, then surely it must be no problem to explain a bit more.
1) The Timeline
In my last entry, I expressed reservations at his conduct and questioned his motivations, and provided a timeline in response to another FB entry by him, denying himself to wanting to be a martyr and seeking asylum. He has been working on overdrive trying to win sympathy from opposition supporters to rally behind him despite his blatant attempts to skewer his case legally. His supporters have tried to muddy the waters, by either ignoring his obvious mis-steps or trying to paint him as having not done anything wrong. The timeline and sequence of events have also been jumbled up as such. Take this blogger’s post which he allowed on his FB wall:
I do not want to debate or challenge the points the writer raised, he has a right to his opinion, but I want to touch on 2 things: a) the timeline and b) the issue at hand, which is defamation, not about the CPF. Whether the writer followed the timeline properly or was led to believe it as such, I’m not sure, but just to recap:
1) Letter of Demand issued (Roy republished on Monday)
2) Article removed later that day, after 1 million hits (as Ms Han Hui Hui said)
3) Apology did not come ‘a couple of days later’ but 5 days later (on the Friday)
4) In the mean time, Roy wrote another article
5) Published correspondence between his lawyer and SC Singh
6) Made a video (shared before the apology, expressing regret and disappointment at the Letter of Demand)
7) Challenged the PM to a debate over CPF
8) Applied to be an NMP (on the Tuesday)
9) Emailed foreign and local media alerting them to his plight
10) Asked for more time to offer damages (Monday last), informed to remove video and further articles.
11) Made the apology and then as claimed by SC Singh, had already moved the offending article and video elsewhere and allowed it to be shared privately.
12) On Monday last, informed by SC Singh about his evasive actions in regards to the fresh demands, asks for more time.
13) Makes the offer of $5000, which was rejected as derisory, because of further actions since the demand letter.
14) Informs SC Singh that no further offer will be made, accepts ‘service’
15) Makes the new video (seeking funds and support, it’s this video the writer is writing about, not the removed one) and makes a public appeal.
Take 1 look at the chain of events and compare his actions with those of people who have been sued /or sued before, and there’s a few glaring things. The most obvious? Normally when people are involved in lawsuit/letter of demand, especially as the defendant, they will engage a lawyer and thereafter – ‘shut up.’ They will let their lawyers handle it and refuse to divulge more to the press or the public. They might make a brief statement but will do little thereafter publicly. Those that want to avoid the lawsuit after receiving the demand letter, will through their lawyers negotiate with the plaintiff to have the apology worded in a way that’s acceptable to all parties. Before making the apology they will not produce another video or article expressing disappointment at the letter. They certainly won’t challenge the plaintiff to a debate, they certainly won’t produce legal correspondence publicly and they certainly won’t alert the plaintiff to the fact that the offending article received 1 million hits in 1 day, compounding the allegation. (When asked why she mentioned this fact on FB, Ms Han insisted it was Roy that asked her to mention this specifically).
In this whole episode, we had this strange scenario as if it was Roy not the PM who was defamed. “You want an apology?” ‘Okay, but wait first, I gotta write about this first, make a video, tell the whole world.’ ‘You want damages?’ ‘Okay, hold on, let me go and make private the things first. Finally, ‘Okay here’s my 1 and only offer – take it or leave it!’
2) The Issue at Hand.
Roy Ng and Co has done a great job in muddying the waters, They have conveniently tried to change the public focus and win sympathy by suggesting he’s only trying to raise awareness about unfair CPF policies, and has been targeted by the PM for it. That is not the issue, to summarise this is the issue:
1) Talking/writing/organising anti-CPF policies – Acceptable
2) Libelling someone as a thief – Not Acceptable (unless you have evidence).
Surely he’s not that dumb not to know this. In fact if you read through the lines in his appeal, he admits this as much, the court case, he says is about damages because he has made an apology. He cannot go and argue about the CPF in court, that’s not the issue. But he’s made no attempt to make this abundantly clear to this donating public. Many still think the court case is about him talking about the CPF. If this case goes before the US Supreme Court or the Law Lords (UK’s top judges), the outcome would still be the same – he has defamed the PM and is liable for damages and more crucially (which he has not mentioned yet) – costs.
It’s high unlikely that unfair CPF policies will be raised in court, and even if so, very little reference to specific policy failures (that he wrote in earlier posts) will be raised. That being the case, the public must be told as to why he’s proceeding to court and not settling out of it. It makes no economic sense. If he’s so concerned about fellow Singaporeans, why is he wasting time and money doing this? Chiam See Tong’s SPP is also organising talks on the CPF. The Reform Party has been championing this too. The Workers Party also raised it Parliament. Why isn’t he working with them or in tandem with them on this? Why is he going solo or rogue? What’s his motivations for doing so? In fact the main issue about the unfair CPF policy revolves around raising the minimum sum. And has he informed his readers and the public that this policy is unlikely to be changed if let’s say, the main opposition Workers Party somehow wins power in the next elections? No.
The Workers Party agrees in principle with the Minimum Sum. That some money has to be set aside for old age, given that now people tend to live longer. Back in 1970s and 80s, if you lived to 70 it was already a huge achievement, 80s rare and beyond even rarer. Because life expectancy has risen, costs will rise if no one has savings or exhausted it all. Therefore the key question that Mr Ng should focus on is how much is reasonable to be set aside and how much is to be returned. Perhaps he should have sought the WP’s position on this or that of other parties before he embarked on his solo mission.
3) Why Make Lawyers Richer and Citizens Poorer?
If he was really so concerned about the CPF, shouldn’t he have just settled the matter out of court? After all with a lawsuit, his effort has to be spent on it, not to mention money. Even if his motivations was to show the world that the PM is a bully and hope to increase the opposition vote, was it a smart move? The next election is 2 1/2 years away, this is not January 2016. If elections are imminent and he wants to sacrifise himself in order to shame the PAP, maybe it could have an effect in the polls.
Roy Ngerng has money and time to print T-shirts and go all the way to Norway to do ‘research’, but he needs the public to pay his legal fees.
Clearly he’s not thinking straight and is surrounded by like-minded persons, who only are thinking of present day gimmicks and stunts in order to raise their profile. Or as Ms Han revealed, he really believes he can be a martyr and then claim sanctuary elsewhere. This is the new element in Singapore politics – the ‘Looney Fringe’, people who do dumb things, who are not helping the opposition cause, who are self-serving, who do not do hard work on the ground but instead expect the public ‘to carry the can’ for them.
If Roy can publish correspondence from his lawyer to SC Singh (which rarely anyone does in a lawsuit), surely he can also detail what instructions he gave his lawyer and what advise he received, in a spirit of transparency and accountability.
Since in his appeal, he admits the court case will be about damages, why in Heaven’s name is he going that route? If he can only afford $5,000 as he says, why go to court and seek $70,000? The questions mentioned earlier that need more answering than a list of donors and amount donated are:
1) What were his instructions to his lawyer?
2) What did M Ravi advise him in regards to the apology?
3) Did he seek advise on what he should do thereafter, did he inform his lawyer about the offending video and new article, and what was the advise?
4) Did he ask his lawyer to ask what amount in damages would be considered acceptable? If not why not? Why wasn’t more done behind the scenes to come to a figure? A very normal occurrence in lawsuits.
5) Did he ask his lawyer about the cost of going to court?
6) Did he consider or seek advise and instructions about the final costs – damages plus legal fees? Did his lawyer advise him, the court will most likely make him pay the costs of SC Singh, if they ruled in favour of the PM (a conclusion he has conceded)?
7) Did he tell his lawyer he has no money to fight the case in court? What was the advise given?
8) Whose idea was it to solicit funds from the public? His, his friends etc?
9) Did his lawyer inform him that costs alone could bankrupt him? – SC Singh commands an enormous fee, normally in excess of $250,000 for a simple High Court matter.
10) In light of the above, will it be his plan to ask the public again in future for more funds to save him from bankruptcy? Or after bankruptcy, to seek a lesser amount from the PM to settle the matter and again go to the public to help pay for it?
Just consider in layman’s terms, you can afford around $5000, the other party wants more, won’t you at least find out how much? Won’t you negotiate? When you don’t have that much, will you agree to legal fee of $70,000? Will you not be concerned that the final figure could be in the hundreds of thousands, maybe even close to a million – in legal fees alone (for the plaintiff’s lawyer)? Which is better, to ask the public’s help to pay for the damages (before the court case), knowing that the PM will donate it to charity (or get an undertaking that it will be done as in previous cases), or to ask the public to pay legal fees of up to $70,000? I don’t think the damages sought would reach $70,000, plus the fact, had he simply done what everyone else in a lawsuit does, apologise and settle early, he might have gotten away with anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, maybe even payable in instalments and also to charity.
So why go to court to make lawyers richer, both plaintiff’s and defendant’s? Why make the public pay for this? And even if the public’s help is still sought, given how he’s been talking of helping poor Singaporeans, why not use this to help those who really need it – the needy? M Ravi is not poor, he has enough clients, SC Singh certainly isn’t poor, why go to court and make them earn more? Roy Ng, if he wants to talk about transparency and accountability, should answer these questions.
Finally, has M Ravi advised him of the very high possibility of a ‘Mareva Injunction?’ SC Singh will be well within his legal rights to ask the court to grant one, given that the defendant has no assets in which he can pay the damages and costs. If SC Singh gets this, this means the $70,000 raised will be frozen and used to settle the damages and then only, costs. So Mr Ravi might not be getting anything upfront at all and it remains to be seen whether there will be anything left over to pay him. Did Roy consider this? How is he going to raise funds to pay his own lawyer then? If the $70,000 isn’t enough, and Roy is made a bankrupt, M Ravi won’t get paid. And all this public fundraising has gone to waste.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Roy Ng has been taking everyone for a ride with his flagrant disregard for doing things the right and easy way. He’s more interested in personal fame and glory. He talks on the one hand of speaking up and helping his fellow countrymen, but on the other hand, does the opposite, making wrong, stupid and hasty decisions that makes them have to pay for each publicity seeking stunt he does. He’s being extremely selfish and not being upfront, transparent and accountable for his actions and motivations. He wants to be remembered as a martyr, but only if the public will pay for it. A most reprehensible course of action.