Lee vs. Au – Back to the old “National Conversation”

What’s a man to do when someone defames him online? I’m sure that many of us have been at the receiving end of insults, bullying and gossip online, and humanity in general has found a way to work with the new communication frontier of the Internet. When faced with defamation online, most people, regardless of our station, simply refute, engage or ignore it. Some of us descend to a tit-for-tat flame war, but even then, nobody is thinking of suing anybody. After all, this is the Internet, and we don’t live in lawsuit-happy America.

Not so our dear PM. Link the wrong words to his name and it’s off to court we go. I’m not sure of the man ever did try to speak to Alex Au nicely about the defamatory statements, like, “Dear Alex, could you please delete the part where you insinuated that I was corrupt?” I don’t know if he did ask nicely first, but on the face of it (and based on common practice for PAP defamation suits) it doesn’t seem like Lee did, and chose to send in the lawyers first.

…because if I can’t find you, I can’t sue you.

So there is a picture of a man who isn’t walking his talk, or to be more specific, isn’t engaging in the National Conversation. I won’t argue about whether Au did defame Lee or not, since Au has already taken down his post and agreed to apologise, and is no stranger to lawsuits like these, but I would have expected PM Lee to, in the spirit of engagement that he so publicly promotes, engage first, then sue if conversation fails.

I won’t deny PM Lee’s (or anyone’s) right to protect their reputations using due process of law, but as one who is supposed to be a 君子 (gentleman/noble), I would have expected less “legal thuggery”, and a more measured, patient, engaged approach to dealing with petty slights to his honour.

So this is a step backwards – bloggers and citizens will have lost trust in the PAP government to deal “man to man” about any differences we may have. Talk about the Men in White the wrong way and you can be sure they will “whack first, talk later”. Engagement fizzles, the National Conversation is over, everybody loses.

Except you, Dr Jia Jia… how could anyone ever sue you, you’re so cute.

In the meantime, the AIM saga remains unsatisfactorily addressed, and also poorly engaged.



  1. “When faced with defamation online, most people, regardless of our station, simply refute, engage or ignore it. Some of us descend to a tit-for-tat flame war, but even then, nobody is thinking of suing anybody.”

    The allegation of Corruption challenges not the man, but the office. It shows disrespect for the Office, and when repeated often enough, will people start to believe it?

    So how can the PM ignore this or be nice about this situation?

    How many have become “experts” of what the PM does or says, and can paraphrase the PM’s actions and words, yet when asked for evidence, fail to provide them?

    Please note that in public, he’s not just merely a person with the name Lee Hsien Loong, but rather he holds the Office and Responsibility of Prime Minister of Singapore.

    There is nothing wrong in the PM maintaining the integrity of the Office.


    1. I agree – the PM has the right to sue, and should do so to maintain his personal integrity, not just that of his office.

      However, I believe that he has done this without going through what most would consider “proper engagement”, especially in the light of his statements that government and ministers have to communicate in a “more personal way by engaging people”. In this sense he has failed in his own National Conversation.


  2. I have no faith in this government to address valid concerns about freedoms and social inequality issues existent in our society. I have no faith in a party that originally stood for workers right but now stood for elites and the wealthy. And I have the least faith in having a leadership that can chart it’s own blazing path onwards and towards the future towards social progress. It will continue to stick to its ancient ways as it desperately tries to cling on to power and count on support from an aging population not realizing the younger population has moved on.


    1. The massive tragedy is that we don’t have much of a choice now – a stodgy, broken PAP or an unproven, shaky opposition? And how many other ways has PAP found to sabotage Singaporeans should they lose more power?


      1. well, one way to find out about any sabotage is to vote more opposition members in to govt. while the PAP is in govt, it is forced to clean up the mess it has created when this is uncovered.

      2. Actually, I think the biggest level
        Of sabotage is when the PAP loses its majority. Then the country will split into opposition government and PAP civil service. Only the people or the PAP can prevent this.

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