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Singapore’s Indian-origin ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan have applied to serve defamation papers on Lee Hsien Yang, the brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, via Facebook Messenger.
The cabinet ministers are suing Yang for defamation, following his comments relating to the rental of two colonial-era bungalows in the city-state.
Their lawyers from Davinder Singh Chambers made the application on the grounds that it was impractical to serve the court papers on Yang personally in Britain, The Straits Times reported.
Yang and his wife left the country after refusing to attend a police interview in July 2022 relating to lying in judicial proceedings about the will of his late father and founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
On August 28, the ministers’ lawyers applied for substituted service by Facebook Messenger, saying that it will probably be “effective in bringing the court papers to the notice of the defendant”.
Substituted service involves serving court papers when attempts to serve the defendant in person have been unsuccessful. Law and Home Affairs Minister Shanmugam and Foreign Minister Balakrishnan had filed separate defamation suits in the High Court against Yang on August 2.
The legal action against Yang came after he wrote Facebook posts, accusing the two ministers of corruption over the rental of their 100-year-old bungalows in the Ridout Park area.
The ministers said that Yang has accused them of acting corruptly and for personal gain by having Singapore Land Authority (SLA) give them preferential treatment by illegally felling trees without approval, and also having SLA pay for renovations to 26 and 31 Ridout Road.
Shanmugam and Balakrishnan had undergone anti-corruption investigations in July, which found no wrongdoing with their respective leases of the houses.
Following this, the ministers sent letters to Yang on July 27, asking him to remove the post and all related comments.
The letter also demanded that Yang post a public apology on his social media page for four weeks.
He was also asked to pay SG$25,000, which the ministers intended to donate to charity.
After receiving the lawyers’ letter by the ministers, Yang said in a July 29 Facebook post that he was simply stating the facts, adding that the two ministers should sue him in a court in Britain, where he presently resides.
On August 14, the ministers’ lawyers applied to the court for permission to serve the papers to Yang “wherever he may be found in the UK”, following which the ministers were granted permission to serve the papers out of jurisdiction on Yang.
The court order stated that within 21 days after the papers are served on him, Yang was to file a document to indicate whether he intended to contest the claim.