The Borneo Post (Sabah)

Singapore activist crowdfunds US$108,000 to pay PM libel damages


SINGAPORE: A Singaporea­n activist has raised US$108,000 he owes Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in defamation damages, the second time this month a government critic turned to the public to fund payments to the premier.

Critics have accused the government of seeking to silence dissent in the tightly regulated city-state through costly libel suits, but activists are fighting back by appealing to the public for donations through social media.

Roy Ngerng, a former government employee, was found guilty in 2014 of defaming Lee after accusing him in a blog of misappropr­iating state pension funds.

He was ordered to pay Lee Sg$150,000 (US$112,000) in damages, which he has been paying in instalment­s.

Ngerng, who now lives in Taiwan, made online appeals for donations to cover the Sg$144,000 that he still owes the prime minister after another blogger successful­ly raised a similar amount earlier this month.

Ngerng announced yesterday that he met his goal over nine days of crowdfundi­ng, with more than 2,000 people donating.

“After 7 long years, you have come together to help me cross this hurdle, and move on into a next chapter of my life,” he wrote in a post on Facebook. “I cannot thank you enough.” Ngerng previously raised more than Sg$112,000 through crowdfundi­ng, but spent the money on legal costs during his defence.

Another blogger, Leong Sze Hian, was ordered to pay Sg$133,000 in damages after being found guilty of defaming the prime minister by sharing an article on Facebook which linked the Singapore leader to the money-laundering scandal at state fund 1MDB in Malaysia.

Leong successful­ly raised the amount in an online crowdfundi­ng campaign earlier this month, but he said Thursday he must pay an additional amount of almost Sg$130,000 in legal costs.

Singaporea­n leaders maintain that the lawsuits are necessary to protect their reputation­s from unfounded allegation­s. — AFP

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