Fresh in the news today, the High Court has awarded our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong a total of $370,000 in damages for two defamation suits he filed over an article published on The Online Citizen (TOC) website. This piece considers the possible reasons why he would take such an action.
The TOC article titled“PM Lee’s wife Ho Ching weirdly shares article on cutting ties with family members” was published on 15 Aug 2019. In the article, Malaysian author Ms Rubaashini Shunmuganathan quoted a Facebook post by PM Lee’s sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling, who quipped that their father had been misled by PM Lee into believing the family house at 38 Oxley Road had been gazetted by the government. The lawsuits soon followed.
Possible reasons for the lawsuit
Let us begin by putting the most unlikely reason aside – no, I doubt it. We have one of the most highly paid prime ministers in the world, he wouldn’t need this extra money.
Perhaps they would argue instead that the lawsuit was to send a message. With this comes the question, what message are they trying to send?
- If he is trying to prove the article wrong, there are many other ways he could have gone about it. He could have given some evidence to proof that the article was incorrect. He could have ignored the article and let time tell the truth. Yet, he chose to sue the writers to silence them, and the public are still unsure about the veracity of the article.
- If he is trying to ask that the public stop looking into his family affair, he has more than failed. The family feud has caught attention since PM Lee’s siblings made a public statement on Facebook in June 2017. Attention on the sibling rivalry seemed to have died down in recent months, that is, until this news once again got onto the headlines.
- If he is trying to show that he will not stand for negative inferences about his character, maybe he succeeded. Yet, this “success” comes at a cost that he may not have considered. Instead of earning any respect, he is now known to some netizens as the PM who sues his own citizens. This success came at the cost of tarnishing his own reputation in other ways.
A word of advice
A word of advice for the PM, and the government as a whole: stop treating us citizens as idiots who cannot make our own judgement calls. Simply telling us something is “wrong” or “right” no longer suffices. Rather, if you show us why something is “wrong” or “right”, we would believe you more.
Also, is getting a bit of ego boost from winning the lawsuit truly worth all the hassle and negative reputation you have earned in the process?