Was Terry’s reply even written by a lawyer?

When one gets pursued for defamation and knows he’s about to lose, one will typically seek ways to comply with the order or at least find ways to reduce damages. Not get gung-ho about it and reply with a haughty letter. 

So you know – Terry Xu, chief editor of The Online Citizen (TOC), has been served a Writ of Summons along with a Statement of Claim by Davinder Singh Chambers LLC. He’s being sued for defamation by the Prime Minister.

He published an article on TOC that says, “PM Lee’s wife, Ho Ching weirdly shares article on cutting ties with family members”. The article is said to contain statements that are false and baseless and were calculated to disparage and impugn PM Lee as well as his office as the Prime Minister.

What is very curious, is his reply in return to the PM’s legal team. 

Firstly, he declines to comply with the demands of the Prime Minister, which includes an apology. But strangely, in the same letter, he offers an apology for the “possible misinterpretation” caused by the article. That is truly a conflict of deeds.

Then, in a paragraph of the reply, he appears to even have acknowledged the defamation. The paragraph says that he “understands there is a possibility that the article is open to misinterpretation”. You might as well be telling Davinder that you know there’s going to be defamation, but you’re publishing it anyway.

He then raises what the internet has been saying: that these words were originally by PM’s siblings. Any lawyer worth his salt can tell you that is no bar to the tort. Why raise it at all?

The content of his letter is mostly about being a martyr. He emphasises on how afraid he is but will be willing to go to court to “uphold his obligations to Singaporeans” and to “speak truth to power”. That is perhaps his true purpose – he wants to do a Roy Ngerng and hopes to have the opportunity to subject the Prime Minister to a questioning. But Roy was eventually disappointed – his became a summary trial, that means the damage is clear and the court session is merely to discuss damages.

And the strangest part of Terry’s reply, is that he says he is “of the opinion that the article is not defamatory”, which is very weak reasoning.
No one tells a lawyer or the court “he is of the opinion” of anything. It is always about fact. It may be subjective or objective, but always about fact. Opinion is amateurish reasoning in the law.

The entire letter is written in such a way that suggests the entire letter wasn’t even written by a lawyer. Which in turn suggests something else: that Terry would be walking into court undefended by any lawyer. This way, it would make martyrdom more dramatic – David versus Goliath. 

Now. Being sued is no cheap matter. Especially not when the plaintiff is the Prime Minister. 

After the 1997 General Elections, a particular Tang Liang Hong was hit with multiple lawsuits for defamation and tax evasion. The amount he had to pay? S$8,075,000. Unable to pay, he left Singapore and was ordered in absentia to make good these damages. 

But it appears Terry is rather willing to face the charges and very potentially lose. Why? Who is his backer? Who is able to afford to pay off a defamation suit? Who has the financial prowess to help Terry pay off the damages? 

Let us end the article here – because should we go on any further, it will be us that would be faced with a defamation suit next ;)

Anyway, if you want to read his full reply here it is:

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