In Singapore: Truth is No Defense

A number of years ago when I had finished my manuscript for my book on sovereign wealth funds, I realized that there was potential legal risk arising from the litigious nature of the Singaporean government.  My publisher arranged to have a well known American lawyer with experience in Singapore on freedom of the press and defamation review the book.

When I met with him to review the manuscript in detail and make edits, he explained the legal standard for writing in Singapore.  It is frighteningly simple and draconian: truth is not a defense.  Everything I wrote in my book was fact checked multiple times by multiple people but as he emphasized in Singapore, it simply does not matter.

Yesterday in the damages portion of the lawsuit against Roy Ngerng by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the absurdity of this legal standard was on full display.  In response to the inquiry whether the facts on Mr. Ngerng’s blog were accurate the son of the first prime minister of Singapore responded “the quotes are factual but the article is not.”  Mr. Lee has presented no evidence to refute the facts, that even he does not dispute, or demonstrate how the facts presented by Mr. Ngerng are constructed to create a false narrative.  Mr. Lee refuses to even argue about the truth.  He later argued that “…there’s not point going through it again other than to aggravate damages.”

Put this dispute in perspective.  Mr. Lee is not disputing facts presented by Mr. Ngerng but rather that his feelings were hurt.  The problem the son of the first prime minister faces is that he cannot argue facts with Mr. Ngerng.  There is clear public evidence that the Lee family has personally benefited from the financial dealings of Temasek which could be presented in open court.  There is clear evidence that public Singaporean funds have been used to subsidize Temasek owned firms.  There is clear evidence that enormous discrepancies exist in Singaporean public finances.  $822 billion SGD in free cash flow over 40 years cannot earn 16% and 7% and be transformed into $834 billion.  These are facts.

It is only in the Kafkaesque world of the Singaporean system that facts are irrelevant.  $800 billion discrepancies mere inconveniences compared to the over sensitive feelings of pampered children.  I have always offered to come to Singapore and allow myself to be sued and this offer still stands.  It reveals the weakness of the sons position that he refuses to discuss facts but rather the sensitivity of his feelings.  If I could not argue on the merits, it makes sense to exclude truth as a defense.  Welcome to Singapore Mr. Ngerng.

7 thoughts on “In Singapore: Truth is No Defense

  1. Pingback: In Singapore: Truth is No Defense | SING A POor...

  2. Balding: — I have always offered to come to Singapore and allow myself to be sued and this offer still stands.

    Be warned, Prof Balding. Because of your impeccable credentials no doubt a crack troop of economists and media spinners has been assembled to deal with your criticisms from every possible angle.

    • I have said many times that if I am wrong, it is easy to prove me wrong with very simple and data that should have no reason to be secret. They could easily prove me wrong if the truth was on their side. It isn’t. I know it and they know it.

  3. Game on, old man. Critics could always paint you as a meddlesome foreigner, or cast aspersions about your political background. Maybe youre CIA in disguise?

    More powerful people can summon vast resources to dig up all the dirt on you.

    Get the word out. What your saying is still too complicated. Get some guy to work it into a comic or a Powerpoint. You will be an overnight hit.

  4. You should offer your story to reputable news outlets like WSJ, NYT or Economist.

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  6. Professor, the last comment was right on the money.

    WSJ recently exposed Malaysian PM Najib’s money trail. An investigation is underway and yes Najib has vowed to sue WSJ!

    Singapore is getting into election fever. Your analysis of a black-hole in the reserves and massive conflicts of interest will be a popular story, if you are prepared to shop it to international news agencies.

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