Lee Hsien Yang bails on TOC's Terry Xu, leaving him to fend for himself

Dec 02, 2020 | 🚀 Fathership

In an unsurprising turn of events, The Online Citizen's Terry Xu had decided to not subpoena Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling as part of his legal defence, despite claiming previously that he would do so.

Xu had applied last September to bring Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's siblings Hsien Yang and Dr Ling into the defamation suit filed by the PM, with the intention of having both of them bear damages if he was found to be guilty of defamation.

Xu's private lunch meeting with Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Suet Fern

According to PM Lee's lawyer Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, Xu had a private lunch meeting with Hsien Yang and his wife Lee Suet Fern on November 4, 2020.

On the same day, Xu sent a letter to the High Court informing of his decision to drop third party proceedings, which essentially meant that both Hsien Yang and Dr Ling did not have to testify in court.

Based on Xu's court submissions, he had previously stated that the "truth of the allegation lies within the knowledge of (Dr Ling and Hsien Yang)" and that he reserved the right to cross-examine both siblings to provide more information.

When the presiding judge Justice Audrey Lim asked Xu when he decided that it was no longer necessary to call the siblings, Xu said, “I have never thought of not calling the siblings. It was only the point where I was told by my counsel that I had to make decision on whether or not to drop third party proceedings because I could subpoena them as witness but my intention was to call them as third party where they could be represented by their lawyers.”

However, Singh reiterated that Xu had only changed his mind after having lunch with Hsien Yang and his wife on 4 November.

Xu disagreed, claiming that he had already made his decision earlier when his lawyer, Lim Tean, asked him about his decision following a pre-trial conference (PTC) on 2 November.

At the PTC, the judge asked Lim what his client intended to do with the third party proceedings. Lim replied that it was unlikely the proceedings would continue but that he would give an answer on 4 November.

Disiplinary Tribunal judgement more reliable than Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling's Facebook statements

SC Singh asked Xu, "You intended to have (Dr Lee and Hsien Yang) come to court to speak to these matters correct?” Xu agreed and later acknowledged that he could have called the siblings as witnesses.

The lawyer said, “You would have wanted to call (Hsien Yang) since you told us earlier that the siblings would know what happened and you didn’t.”

Xu replied, “Before I got hold of the documents from the disciplinary tribunal, yes”, referring to the disciplinary tribunal which was convened against Hsien Yang’s wife Lee Suet Fern over the handling of the late Lee’s last will.

SC Singh then asked, “Are you saying that after you got hold of documents you thought it was no longer necessary to call the siblings?” Xu said, “Yes it’s not paramount for me to call them.”

Putting his case to Xu, Singh said, “I suggest to you that the reason you did not subpoena Hsien Yang and did not proceed with third party proceedings is you had come to understand that the siblings could not establish the truth of the allegations.” Xu disagreed.

SC Singh then said, “I suggest to you you had come to understand based on these objective facts…that the siblings were unable to prove the truth or to establish the truth of the allegations, and because of that you have...sought to rely on emails that you were not party to instead of calling witnesses, isn’t that right?” Xu also disagreed.

SC Singh replied, “The fact that you plead defence of justification, in other words to say allegations are true, in circumstances where you could have but chose not to subpoena Hsien Yang shows that you know from your discussions with him that the allegations against the plaintiff are false.”

Xu said, “I disagree and would like to quantify. The first defence I filed was based on documents that were presented from Hsien Yang and Dr Lee on their public Facebook page and I would have relied on them as a source for documents. Following the disciplinary tribunal (being) made public, these documents were tendered and not disputed by the plaintiff and siblings so therefore those were more reliable than what the siblings presented in public.”

Hsien Yang had previously said during the Disiplinary hearing on his wife's legal misconduct case that statements he made on Facebook need not be accurate because they were not sworn ones. He also admitted that aspects of his posts could be misleading and inaccurate.

Background on defamation trial

The case revolves around claims made by TOC in an article published on Aug 15 last year, titled "PM Lee's wife, Ho Ching weirdly shares article on cutting ties with family members".

The TOC article had commented on how PM Lee's wife, Ms Ho Ching, had shared a link on Facebook to an article titled "Here's why sometimes it is okay to cut ties with toxic family members".

It also referenced a Facebook post that Dr Lee made in May. Mr Lee Hsien Yang had also shared the post by Dr Lee.

In September last year, PM Lee asked TOC to remove the article, along with a Facebook post linking to it, and publish a full and unconditional apology.

His press secretary Chang Li Lin said the allegations in the article and post were libellous and repeated several false allegations against PM Lee that were previously made by his sister.

One such allegation was that PM Lee had misled his father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, into thinking that his 38 Oxley Road property had been gazetted by the Singapore Government, and that it was futile for the founding prime minister to keep his direction to demolish it.

Another allegation was that Mr Lee Kuan Yew removed PM Lee as an executor and trustee of his will after it was revealed to him in late 2013 that the 38 Oxley Road property had in fact not been gazetted.

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This commentator thinks MCI ad should not have featured poor Malays

May 12, 2022 | 🚀 Fathership
A Hari Raya advertisement by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) was 'cancelled' by certain netizens online for depicting lower income Malays according to reality.

"Message for Syawal", a two-and-a-half-minute video published last month (Apr 30) captures moments in the life of a low-income Malay family living in a rental flat.


Pictured: Screenshot from MCI video "Message for Syawal"

The video, which is peppered with Malay proverbs, shows the family moving out of their rental flat to a new home several years later where they celebrate Hari Raya.

The father of the family works as a mover while the mother is a housewife.

Their young son, Syawal, skips school to earn extra income for his family before a teacher flags his absence from school to his parents.

The mother in the video later decides to return to work to alleviate her family’s financial difficulties while the father gets a new job.

Pictured: Screenshot from MCI video "Message for Syawal"

Why some netizens are outraged

The video sparked backlash online, with some viewers saying that it contained stereotypes about the Malay community.

The stereotypes:
  • The father works as a mover - commonly perceived to be a low-income job
  • The mother is jobless
  • The son plays truant
  • The family lives in a rental flat for low-income earners

Commentator implied that poor Malays shouldn't be portrayed in public to prevent stereotypes

Pictured: Screenshot from Homeground Asia video

A video commentary by The Homeground Asia went further by criticizing how the video propagates the narrative that Malays are poor and lazy, and that the ministry should have created a video that is more relatable to both the less fortunate and the more affluent Malays.

Adi Rahman, one of the interviewees in the video went further by making sweeping assumptions that the ministry lacked cultural intelligence and did not consult the community on the narrative.

Ironically, in talking about inclusivity, Adi implied that the realities of poor Malays should not be shown in public.

For example, his rationale suggested that the video contained characters (the mover, jobless mother and the son who skips school) that contribute to the problem of other races seeing the Malays in a stereotypical and reductive light.

In other words, show the good stuff but not the reality.

Adi even accused the ministry for not consulting the Malays in the vetting of the video narrative.

His accusations were without merit, however, when the Ministry said in a statement (Apr 30) that Malay-Muslim viewers - presumably a focus group - had seen the video prior to its release, and perceived the story to be heart-warming, although some expressed reservations.

Pictured: Adi Rahman - one of the commentators in Homeground Asia video

Stereotyping or masking reality?

The ministry said last month (Apr 30) the video was meant to show "a family’s journey of resilience in facing challenging circumstances and how mutual support and encouragement could nurture the process”.

Other netizens felt it was an overreaction and that low-income families shouldn't be dehumanized in a way that they are removed from the conversation. They felt that the video was a call-to-action for those from the underprivileged to strive for a better life through hard work and seeking help that's already available.

The only missed opportunity in the MCI video was perhaps the suggestion that Malays in low income families living in a rental flat could not celebrate Hari Raya unless they get a flat on their own.

But of course, like Homeground Asia, that is also a sweeping assumption.