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Fixing the opposition


Alfrescian (Inf)

Lee Hsien Yang ordered to pay damages to Shanmugam, Vivian for defaming them over Ridout Road rentals​


The High Court has granted default judgment in favour of ministers K. Shanmugam (centre) and Vivian Balakrishnan (right), after Mr Lee Hsien Yang failed to respond to their defamation suits against him. PHOTOS: ST FILE, ZB FILE, BLOOMBERG

Natasha Ann Zachariah

Nov 27, 2023

SINGAPORE – Mr Lee Hsien Yang will have to pay damages to ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan for defaming them in Facebook comments about their rental of state bungalows in Ridout Road.
The High Court has granted default judgment in favour of the two ministers, after Mr Lee failed to respond to their defamation suits against him. The amount of damages to be paid will be assessed at a subsequent hearing.
Justice Goh Yi Han also granted an injunction restraining Mr Lee from further publishing or disseminating the false and defamatory allegations, which stated, among other things, that the ministers had acted corruptly and for personal gain by receiving preferential treatment for the rentals from the Singapore Land Authority.
In a written judgment on Nov 27 that followed his decision in court on Nov 2, Justice Goh said he granted the injunction as there were “strong reasons” for him to conclude that Mr Lee will repeat his defamatory statements.
The judge noted that Mr Lee had refused to take down his July 23 Facebook post despite having been issued a letter of demand by the ministers on July 27.
The post stated, among other things, that “two ministers have leased state-owned mansions from the agency that one of them controls, felling trees and getting state-sponsored renovations”.
Mr Lee had continued to refer and draw the attention of readers in Singapore to that Facebook post, noted the judge. He also repeatedly posted about the lawsuits that were under way, which again drew attention to his remarks that were the subject of the court proceedings.

In his ruling, Justice Goh said the two ministers had met the requirements for a default judgment against Mr Lee.
Mr Shanmugam, who is Law and Home Affairs Minister, and Dr Balakrishnan, who is Foreign Minister, had filed separate defamation suits in the High Court against Mr Lee on Aug 2.
Mr Lee is the younger son of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

As Mr Lee was outside Singapore, the ministers applied to the court and were given leave to serve him court papers by Facebook messenger, which they did on Sept 15.
While there is no need for the ministers to prove that Mr Lee saw the documents served on him, Justice Goh noted that Mr Lee had put up a post on Sept 16 which confirmed that he had seen the papers.
Mr Lee then had 21 days to respond to the claims, but did not do so.
Justice Goh said the ministers’ suits raised a novel issue of the extent of the court’s power to grant an injunction during an application for a default judgment.
Updated court rules which took effect in April 2022 meant that claimants could seek an injunction when applying for a default judgment, he said. Prior to the change, claimants could only seek an injunction at a later stage, after a defendant persisted in not filing a defence.

Even so, the ministers still had to show why the injunction should be granted, the judge said, noting they were not entitled to such an order just because they had applied for it and Mr Lee did not respond to their claims.
“In my view, given the potentially draconian effects that an injunction can have on a defendant, a court needs to be independently satisfied that it was appropriate to grant injunctive relief,” he said.
The judge said he was satisfied in the present case given the facts, and thus granted the injunction. This included that the Facebook post in question “remains published, accessible, and available”.
Following the judge’s decision on Nov 2, Mr Lee said in a Nov 10 Facebook post that he was made aware of the court order, and that he has “now been compelled to remove the statements from my Facebook page”. His prior posts were edited on Nov 10 to remove those statements.
In his Nov 27 judgment, Justice Goh added that there was good reason to gather that Mr Lee would “repeat the defamatory allegations by continuing to draw attention to them and/or publish further defamatory allegations against the claimants”.
He said he would have found an enforceable claim under defamation law if Mr Lee had decided to challenge the ministers’ claims.
This is as a reasonable reader would have understood Mr Lee’s Facebook post to mean that trust in the People’s Action Party had been squandered because of the ministers’ allegedly corrupt conduct, from which they gained personally, he said.
It was also clear that the post referred to Mr Shanmugam and Dr Balakrishnan, though they were not expressly named, and the posts continue to be accessible to the public, he added.
The implication of Mr Lee’s decision not to respond to the suits was that the court was unable to take into account any countervailing materials regarding the claims, said the judge.


Alfrescian (Inf)

WP leaders awarded costs for appeals in AHTC case​


The apex court rejected Aljunied-Hougang Town Council’s argument that it was the successful party in the appeals. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Tham Yuen-C
Senior Political Correspondent

Nov 29, 2023

SINGAPORE - Workers’ Party leaders Pritam Singh, Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang will be able to recover some legal fees in the long-running case involving the party’s town council, after the apex court found they had succeeded substantially in their appeals and awarded costs to them.
The Court of Appeal also agreed the trio could claim for the costs of using more than two lawyers in some instances – an exception to the usual rule – as the case had high stakes for all parties involved and dealt with complex issues of both law and fact.
The Nov 29 ruling followed previous judgments in July 2023 and November 2022 in which the apex court overturned several findings of the High Court, while confirming that senior WP leaders were liable to Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) and Sengkang Town Council (STC) for negligence in certain respects.
Following the July decision, parties made written arguments on the costs to be awarded for the appeals.
In all, $351,965.62 in costs were awarded to Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Low, as well as other town councillors, FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) and its employees. They were also awarded $36,817.01 in disbursements for out-of-pocket expenses such as photocopying and filing fees.

WP town councillors largely succeeded in their appeals: Court​

In its latest judgment, the court said the WP town councillors did succeed substantially in their appeals. This included that they were found to have acted in good faith in the hiring of FMSS as AHTC’s managing agent without an open tender.
In July, the apex court overturned an earlier finding by a lower court that Ms Lim and Mr Low had breached their fiduciary duties, and instead found that they had been negligent in allowing control failures to happen at the town council and in other miscellaneous payments.

The court also found that Mr Singh cannot be held liable for negligence in AHTC’s payments process, as he was not given the chance to defend himself against the claim.
As such, the court rejected AHTC’s argument that it was the successful party in the appeals because some WP leaders were found to have been grossly negligent, and that it was thereby entitled to costs.
This argument “cannot be sustained on the facts because most of the issues in the appeals... were not found in AHTC’s favour”, it said.

Instead, it agreed with the WP leaders and other town councillors involved in the case, who argued they should be awarded costs as the majority of claims against them by AHTC and STC were dismissed as a result of the appeals.
This is although liability for some serious breaches was found to have been established even after the appeals, it noted.
Overall, the court said the town councillors were “successful in overturning the outcome reached in the court below on the majority of the issues” and should be entitled to claiming costs.
The costs due to the WP leaders and others are to be borne by both AHTC and STC. STC inherited the case from Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) after Punggol East SMC was subsumed into Sengkang GRC in 2020.
PRPTC had initiated a civil suit, parallel to AHTC’s lawsuit, to recover losses incurred by Punggol East when the constituency was under the WP and managed by the WP-run town council from 2013 to 2015.
An independent panel appointed by AHTC had taken the WP leaders, several town councillors and the town council’s managing agent to court over $33.7 million of improper payments made by AHTC between 2011 and 2015.
Central to the case is the WP leaders’ hiring of FMSS, which was set up by Ms How Weng Fan and her now-deceased husband, Mr Danny Loh, who were later appointed deputy secretary and general manager, and secretary of AHTC, respectively, while remaining FMSS shareholders and directors.
The High Court found in 2019 that Mr Low and Ms Lim had breached their fiduciary duties to AHTC, and Mr Singh had breached his duties of skill and care, among other findings. The WP leaders then appealed against the judgment.

Reasonable to use more lawyers​

In its Nov 29 decision, the court agreed with the WP leaders that their use of more than two lawyers to fight the appeals was warranted, due to its exceptional nature and complexity.
Typically, claims for the costs of more than two lawyers are not allowed unless the court grants a certificate that allows for it. This raises the amount of costs that can be claimed from the other party, in this case by 50 per cent.
The apex court noted that the appeals raised the important question of whether a public servant exercising statutory duties under public law is also subject to fiduciary and equitable duties. That a five-judge bench heard the appeals reflected the need for the assistance of lawyers with requisite knowledge and experience, they added.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon led the panel, which also comprised justices Judith Prakash, Tay Yong Kwang, Woo Bih Li and Andrew Phang.
The court said the numerous claims made by the town councils also necessitated careful analysis of evidence to put them in proper context, so as to determine the propriety of the contracts awarded by the WP town councillors.
In addition, the appeals involved voluminous materials comprising 206 bundles totalling 52,694 pages, the court said.
The stakes in the appeal were very high for all parties involved, with serious allegations against the WP leaders and town councillors, strong media interest and important questions of public interest raised.
“Viewed in its entirety, we agree... that the use of more than two counsel was reasonably necessary for the adequate presentation and preparation for the appeals,” the court said.

Separate cost orders warranted​

The court also made separate cost orders against STC, which argued against this.
STC had accepted that costs orders should be made against it as the WP town councillors, employees and FMSS had succeeded on key issues in their appeal.
But it submitted that it should be subject to a single costs order, even though the different parties were represented by different law firms.
The court noted that implicit in STC’s argument was the suggestion that the case did not justify separate legal teams.
To this, the court said that while it was true that there was some degree of shared interests between the parties, this “cannot be taken too far”.
The interests of the town councillors and FMSS employees were aligned insofar as they relied on the same broad arguments, such as in the interpretation of laws and regulations.
“However, that in and of itself does not lead to the conclusion that the... decision to engage separate counsel was an unreasonable one,” said the court.
It noted that there were some nuances and differences between the parties’ positions and interests. For instance, the town councillors and employees made different arguments about the correct interpretation of the Town Councils Act.
Unlike the other parties involved, Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Low were also elected MPs, and as such had to face potential political consequences on top of the legal consequences from the claims against them, the court said.
The parties also acted in rather distinct capacities in relation to AHTC’s affairs, it added.
In determining the quantum of cost orders, the court said it took into account that there were issues found in AHTC and STC’s favour, such as that the WP leaders and town councillors owed a duty of care and skill to the town councils and were thus liable for some of the claims.
Broadly, it applied a 15 per cent discount to the costs awarded due to the findings in AHTC and STC’s favour.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Kenneth Jeyaretnam barred from profiting from website, social media accounts under Pofma​


Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam’s website and social media accounts will have to carry a notice stating that it is a Declared Online Location. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE

Jean Iau

Dec 11, 2023

SINGAPORE – Opposition politician Kenneth Jeyaretnam’s website The Ricebowl Singapore (TRS), and his accounts on Facebook, Instagram, X and LinkedIn have been earmarked as Declared Online Locations (DOLs) under Singapore’s fake news law, preventing him from benefitting financially on these platforms.
For two years starting from Dec 12, each online site will have to carry a notice stating that it is a DOL so that visitors will be warned that Mr Jeyaretnam has a history of communicating falsehoods on these online locations, said the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) on Dec 11.
While the declaration does not mean that the online locations will need to cease operations, they must comply with actions under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) that would prevent their operator from financially benefiting during this period.
MCI said the declaration order was made following multiple falsehoods communicated on the online platforms, for which Mr Jeyaretnam, the secretary-general of the Reform Party, had been served Pofma correction directions on July 16, Aug 2, Aug 22, Aug 30 and Nov 2.
“In the last six months, Mr Jeyaretnam has made false claims and repeatedly shared falsehoods about various government policies and processes, such as fiscal and manpower policies, the Singapore Police Force’s and Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau’s investigation practices, and state property rentals,” added the MCI.
Under Pofma, an online platform can be declared a DOL if it has carried three or more different false statements of fact that have been the subject of Pofma directions within six months of the declaration.
It will be an offence for the operator of the DOLs to derive financial or any other material benefit from operating them.

Service providers, such as digital advertising agencies, must also take reasonable steps to ensure that their paid content on these DOLs is not available in Singapore.
Members of the public and companies must not financially support DOLs if they know they would support, help or promote the communication of falsehoods in Singapore on the platform in doing so.
MCI said: “Members of the public are advised to be alert to Mr Jeyaretnam’s history of communicating misinformation on these online locations, and to fact-check information published at these DOLs.”
The Online Citizen Asia’s (TOCA) website, Facebook page, Twitter account page and LinkedIn page were also earlier made DOLs with effect from July 22, 2023 to July 21, 2025.
Other social media pages that were previously declared as DOLs include the States Times Review Facebook page, Singapore States Times Facebook page, Alex Tan’s Facebook page and National Times Singapore Facebook page.
These pages were operated by Mr Alex Tan, according to MCI. As Mr Tan did not comply with the DOL requirements, Access Disabling Orders were subsequently issued to Facebook to disable access to these pages to people in Singapore. Facebook complied with the orders.
A provision under Pofma allows the Government to order an Internet intermediary to disable access to a DOL if the owner of the DOL does not comply with the declaration and paid content on the site continues to be displayed to users here.
If an Internet intermediary fails to comply and is convicted, it can be fined up to $20,000 for each day that the government order is not fully complied with, up to a total of $500,000.
The owner or operator of the DOL, or any person with editorial control over the online location, may apply to MCI to vary or cancel the declaration. If the minister refuses the application, an appeal can be made to the High Court.
A registry of current DOLs is available here: https://www.pofmaoffice.gov.sg/registry/declared-online-locations/


Alfrescian (Inf)

WP chief Pritam Singh charged with lying to Parliament over Raeesah Khan’s case, pleads not guilty​

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Leader of the Opposition and Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh is under a police probe in relation to a controversy involving former MP Raeesah Khan lying in Parliament. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Tham Yuen-C and Nadine Chua

MAR 19, 2024

SINGAPORE – Leader of the Opposition and Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh was charged on March 19 with two counts of lying to a parliamentary committee, two years after the police opened investigations into his conduct before the Committee of Privileges.
The charges relate to his testimony before the committee, which had been convened in November 2021 to look into a lying controversy involving his party’s former MP Raeesah Khan.
The committee called Singh as a witness and said later that he had not been truthful during the hearings while under oath. It recommended referring him to the public prosecutor for further investigations with a view to consider criminal proceedings, which Parliament later endorsed.
Standing in the dock on March 19, 2024, the 47-year-old opposition politician, who was unrepresented, pleaded not guilty to the two charges under Section 31(q) of the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act and claimed trial.
He requested for a four-week adjournment to engage a lawyer. A pre-trial conference has been scheduled for April 17.
Lying in response to questions posed by a parliamentary committee is considered a criminal offence under the Act, and carries a maximum fine of $7,000 and a jail term of up to three years or both.
Singh arrived at the State Courts at 10.45am, clad in a black suit. When asked why he was at the courts, he replied: “Why do you normally come to the State Courts?”

When asked if he had anything to say after being charged, he said he would be releasing a statement later.
The committee’s recommendation for Singh to be referred to the public prosecutor had come after it investigated Ms Khan for lying in Parliament.
During a debate on empowering women on Aug 3, 2021, Ms Khan, then MP for Sengkang GRC, had claimed to have accompanied a sexual assault victim to a police station where the victim was treated insensitively. She repeated the claim again in the House on Oct 4, 2021.

This was later found to be untrue, and Ms Khan eventually told Parliament on Nov 1, 2021, that she had been sexually assaulted herself and had heard about the victim’s experience at a support group session.
She resigned from the WP and her parliamentary seat on Nov 30, 2021.
In the charge sheets, Singh was said to have given a false answer to the committee’s questions on December 10 and 15, 2021.

On one occasion, he had said after an Aug 8 meeting between him, Ms Khan and WP leaders Sylvia Lim and Faisal Manap, that he had wanted Ms Khan to clarify that she had lied in Parliament on Aug 3.
On two other occasions, he had said that during a meeting with Ms Khan on Oct 3, he had asked her to come clean about her lie if the issue was brought up in the House on Oct 4.
The eight-member committee comprised seven People’s Action Party MPs and one WP MP.
They were then Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Defence Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Law Rahayu Mahzam, Hougang MP and WP organising secretary Dennis Tan, and Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Don Wee.

Former Sengkang GRC MP Raeesah Khan (left) and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh giving evidence before the Parliament’s Committee of Privileges in December 2021. PHOTOS: GOV.SG
After a total of 31 hours of hearings held over several weeks, the committee found Ms Khan guilty of abuse of privilege and recommended that she be fined a total of $35,000.
It also recommended that Singh, along with his fellow Aljunied GRC MP Faisal Manap, be referred to the public prosecutor for further investigations – Singh for not being truthful in his testimony under oath, and Mr Faisal for his “flagrant and inexcusable” refusal to answer relevant questions.
In a joint statement on March 19, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) and police said Mr Faisal will not be charged. He has been issued an advisory to familiarise himself with conduct expected of Members of Parliament under the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act, and to refrain from any act that may be in breach of it.
WP chairman and Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim had also been called as a witness by the committee, but was not referred for further investigations.
At the crux of the matter was the three months that elapsed before Ms Khan confessed in Parliament on Nov 1, 2021, to lying.

The committee concluded that Singh had played “the key and leading role” in advising her not to come clean after she first lied, and said he had lied when he asserted during the hearings that he had asked her to set the record straight in the House.
Singh has consistently denied the allegations. Though he acknowledged that he had given Ms Khan too much time to clarify the lie, he said he had done so as he was sympathetic to the fact that she had been a victim of sexual assault.
In its 1,180-page report presented to Parliament on Feb 10, 2022, the committee said it was beyond its purview to recommend that any penalty be imposed on both opposition politicians.
The committee added that while the default position is that Parliament should deal with matters that arise in a parliamentary context, it appeared best in this case that the matter “be dealt with through a trial process, rather than by Parliament alone”, given the seriousness of the two WP leaders’ actions.
In February 2022, after debating the committee’s report, Parliament voted in favour of the committee’s recommendation. The Attorney-General then referred both men to the police for investigation.

In the charge sheets, Singh was said to have given a false answer to the committee’s questions on December 10 and 15, 2021. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Political watchers and observers have been watching for updates to the case, with some wondering if Singh might end up being more heavily punished than Ms Khan.
Singh had posted in February 2022 about the prospect of losing his seat as an MP or being disqualified from standing for election, since this could happen if a person is jailed for at least one year or fined at least $2,000. The disqualification lasts for five years.
The Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act was amended in May 2022 with the fine quantum for disqualification increased to at least $10,000.
In response to media queries, an AGC spokesman said if Singh is found guilty, it is for the Court to decide what the appropriate punishment should be.
The spokesman added that they will be asking the Court to impose a fine for each of the charges, if Singh is convicted.
This is based on the “evidence presently available and considering the totality of the circumstances”, said AGC.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Shanmugam, Vivian seek aggravated damages from Lee Hsien Yang over post on Ridout Road rentals​


The High Court previously granted default judgment in favour of (from left) ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan, after Mr Lee Hsien Yang failed to respond to their defamation suits against him. PHOTOS: ZB FILE, ST FILE

Selina Lum
Senior Law Correspondent

MAY 02, 2024

SINGAPORE – Cabinet ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan are seeking aggravated damages against Mr Lee Hsien Yang for defaming them in a public post on his Facebook page about their rental of state bungalows in Ridout Road.
Mr Shanmugam and Dr Balakrishnan appeared in court on May 2 at a hearing to assess the amount of damages they are entitled to get from Mr Lee.
They took the stand briefly to affirm the contents of the affidavits they had filed to the court.
Mr Lee was absent.
After the 20-minute hearing ended, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, who is acting for the two ministers, told reporters that they did not specify the amount of damages sought. They were leaving it to the court, he said.
Mr Singh argued in his opening statement that Mr Lee’s conduct had aggravated the injury caused by his defamatory post.
He said Mr Lee had refused to apologise for his post after receiving a legal demand to do so, and instead “proceeded to wage a public campaign to gain sympathy and support from Singaporeans” against the two ministers.

The lawyer noted that despite making numerous Facebook posts drawing attention to the defamatory post, Mr Lee “has never once said” that his statements were true.
“That is very telling. He has also not come to court to claim that they are true. The inference is compelling that he knew and knows that the offending words are false,” he said.
Mr Singh cited Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s defamation suit against blogger and financial adviser Leong Sze Hian.

In 2021, PM Lee was awarded $100,000 in general damages and $33,000 in aggravated damages.
Mr Singh compared Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s conduct to that of Mr Leong, who was sued for sharing, on his Facebook page, an article from a Malaysian news site falsely linking PM Lee to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad corruption scandal in Malaysia.
He noted that Mr Leong removed his post after three days, but Mr Lee’s post was available for more than 3½ months.
Mr Singh said Mr Lee had “continued to double down” on the false allegations, although it was widely known that the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau’s investigations found no evidence that the ministers received preferential treatment or had abused their position for personal gain.

Mr Shanmugam, who is Law and Home Affairs Minister, and Dr Balakrishnan, who is Foreign Minister, had filed separate defamation suits in the High Court against Mr Lee in August 2023.
The legal action arose over the post on Mr Lee’s Facebook page made on July 23.
Mr Lee is the younger son of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and brother of PM Lee.
On Nov 2, 2023, Justice Goh Yihan granted default judgment in favour of the two ministers after Mr Lee failed to respond to their defamation suits against him.
In his written grounds of decision, Justice Goh said the two ministers had met the requirements for a default judgment against Mr Lee.
As Mr Lee was outside Singapore, the ministers applied to the court and were given permission to serve him court papers by Facebook messenger, which they did on Sept 15, 2023.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam (in the back seat) leaving the Supreme Court on May 2. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
While there was no need for the ministers to prove that Mr Lee saw the documents served on him, Justice Goh noted that Mr Lee had put up a post on Sept 16, 2023, that confirmed he had seen the papers.
Mr Lee then had 21 days to respond to the claims, but did not do so.
The judge had also granted an injunction restraining Mr Lee from further publishing or disseminating the false and defamatory allegations, which stated, among other things, that the ministers had acted corruptly and for personal gain by receiving preferential treatment for the rentals from the Singapore Land Authority.
Justice Goh said he had granted the injunction as there were “strong reasons” for him to conclude that Mr Lee would repeat his defamatory statements.
On May 2, Mr Singh noted that Mr Shanmugam and Dr Balakrishnan are “public leaders and persons of the highest integrity whose standing are beyond question”.
Mr Singh argued that the higher the claimant’s standing, the heavier the damages.
As for Mr Lee, he is a well-known figure in Singapore, with 89,000 followers on Facebook.
The greater the standing of the defamer, the greater the impact of the defamation and the degree of injury, Mr Singh said.
He also noted that as at 7.11am on April 5, 2024, Mr Lee’s post had received 2,765 reactions, 489 comments and 402 shares.
The greater the extent of publication and republication, the higher the award of damages, said Mr Singh.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan leaving the Supreme Court on May 2. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI


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Psychiatrist Ang Yong Guan found guilty of misconduct over prescriptions that deviated from guidelines​


The current case concerned a series of prescriptions Dr Ang Yong Guan had given a former patient, which did not conform with guidelines issued by MOH. PHOTO: ST FILE

Selina Lum
Senior Law Correspondent

MAY 14, 2024

SINGAPORE – Psychiatrist Ang Yong Guan has been found guilty of three counts of professional misconduct for departing from the relevant guidelines in prescribing various medications to a patient.
Dr Ang is also assistant secretary-general of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) and contested the Marymount seat in the 2020 General Election.
The current case concerned a series of prescriptions Dr Ang had given a former patient, Mr Quek Kiat Siong, which did not conform with guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health (MOH).
Mr Quek died of multiple organ failure four days after the last of these prescriptions was issued in 2012. He was 50 years old.
The final prescription included a daily dosage of 60mg of antidepressant medication mirtazapine, which Dr Ang acknowledged went to the “edge of the killing range”.
The patient’s sister lodged a complaint with the Singapore Medical Council (SMC), which brought three disciplinary charges against Dr Ang.
But a disciplinary tribunal acquitted Dr Ang of professional misconduct and instead found him guilty of failing to provide professional services of the quality which is reasonably expected of him.

On May 13, the Court of Three Judges overturned the tribunal’s decision, and found him guilty of professional misconduct.
Dr Ang had appealed against his conviction on the alternate charges, while the SMC appealed against the acquittal and argued for a three-year suspension.
In its written judgment, the court ruled that Dr Ang’s departures from the relevant guidelines in relation to various prescriptions amounted to misconduct because he was unable to justify those decisions.

The patient had concurrent prescriptions of multiple benzodiazepines, concurrent prescriptions of benzodiazepines with opioid painkillers, and excessive dosages of mirtazapine and a controlled-release form of zolpidem.
Benzodiazepines are depressants, while zolpidem is used to treat insomnia.
The court, which comprised Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Justice Belinda Ang and Justice Tay Yong Kwang, will hear arguments at a later date on the appropriate sanctions to be meted out.

Under the Medical Registration Act, doctors found guilty of professional misconduct can be struck off the register, suspended or ordered to pay a penalty, among other things.
Dr Ang, who runs his own practice, Ang Yong Guan Psychiatry, began treating Mr Quek on Feb 8, 2010, for various conditions, including insomnia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessional ruminations and anxiety.
His final prescription was issued on July 31, 2012, four days before Mr Quek died on Aug 4 that year.
The cause of death was certified as “multi-organ failure with pulmonary haemorrhage, due to mixed drug intoxication”.
The concentration of drugs in the patient’s blood was found to be “elevated beyond the therapeutic concentrations found in living subjects”.
After Mr Quek’s death, his sister sued his insurers, which had denied liability under two personal accident policies. She argued that he died as a result of accidental drug interactions, but the insurer denied that the death was accidental.
In 2017, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Ms Quek and ordered the insurers to pay out the sums under the policies. The court found that the most likely scenario was that Mr Quek had taken his medication as prescribed.
Ms Quek then filed a complaint with the SMC against Dr Ang in April 2017.
The first charge brought against Dr Ang pertained to prescriptions issued between Feb 8, 2010, and Dec 31, 2011, while the second charge concerned prescriptions issued between Jan 1, 2012, and July 31, 2012.
The third charge concerned the final prescription issued on July 31, 2012.
It was for a daily dosage of 60mg of mirtazapine, which exceeded the permitted maximum daily dosage of 45mg; and for a daily dosage of 25mg of controlled-release zolpidem, in excess of the permitted maximum daily dosage of 12.5mg.
It was not disputed that Dr Ang had made such prescriptions, and that these prescriptions were inconsistent with both the guidelines issued by MOH and the package inserts in the medication.
The SMC’s disciplinary tribunal had concluded that Dr Ang’s conduct did not amount to an intentional and deliberate departure from the standards of treatment, as he had shown “care and concern” for the patient and had “attempted to meet the standard” expected of him.
In its judgment, the court said that while doctors may depart from codified standards adopted by the medical profession, the burden falls on them to demonstrate that the departure is objectively justified in terms of the risks and benefits.
The court added that in cases where there is significant risk from the patient’s perspective, the doctor would have to show that the patient had been informed of the risks, even if they were objectively outweighed by the benefits.
The court found that on the first two charges, Dr Ang had shown that some of his decisions to depart from the guidelines were objectively justifiable, while others were not.
As for the third charge, the court said Dr Ang was unable to demonstrate that his prescription of mirtazapine and zolpidem in excess of the stated maximum dosages was objectively justifiable.