The nephew of Singapore’s Prime Minister was fined S$15,000 (about US$11,ooo) today for scandalizing the judiciary online three years ago.
Li Shengwu, who is the son of Lee Hsien Yang, said he disagreed with the contempt of court judgment, saying the case wasted three years of civil servants’ time. He also said he worries that the outcome will further suppress ordinary political speech.
“I disagree with the judgement, and worry that it will reinforce the [People’s Action Party’s] tendency to suppress ordinary political speech. In response to three words in a private Facebook post, the government has wasted three years of civil servants’ time,” he wrote online today.
In 2017, the Harvard University associate economic professor wrote in a post visible only to friends that Singapore’s government was “very litigious” and has a “pliant court system.”
He made the comments in the context of a dispute between his father and uncle over the late Lee Kuan Yew’s home.
Li will need to spend a week in jail if he does not pay the fine within two weeks.
The offending post written while he was in Singapore is not publicly available on Li’s Facebook page, but he has previously mentioned amending it to remove the phrase “pliant court system.”
“It is not my intent to attack the Singapore judiciary or to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice. Any criticism I made is of the Singapore government’s litigious nature, and its use of legal rules and actions to stifle the free press,” Li wrote on Aug. 4, 2017.
“However, to avoid any misunderstanding of my original private post, I have amended the post so as to clarify my meaning,” he added.
The Attorney-General’s Chambers filed proceedings against him after he refused to delete the post.
Li in January said he would no longer participate in the legal proceedings, citing issues with his defense affidavit. The attorney-general reportedly said that parts of his affidavit were struck for being irrelevant and containing matters that were scandalous.
Neither party revealed what those parts had entailed.
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