On 24 Mar, blogger Leong Sze Hian was ordered to pay $133,000 in defamation damages to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, for a Facebook post that he shared alleging the PM’s involvement in money laundering.
Since then, Mr Leong has been raising funds to pay for the damages.
On Sunday (4 Apr), he gave the news on Facebook — through crowdfunding efforts from over 2,000 people, he’s raised the $133,082 in damages.
In the days since the courts ordered the payment, the blogger received help from his lawyer Lim Tean as they spread the word around social media.
The process took 11 days.
During this time, donors came in — both anonymous and named.
Among the donors were Mr Chiam See Tong and Mrs Lina Chiam.
Within a day, he’d raised $20,000 from 340 people, and the amount of donors flowed steadily.
Eventually, a total of 2,065 people contributed to the fund.
The single highest amount that Mr Leong received was $5,000.
In the post announcing the completion of the crowdfund, Mr Leong shared a poem:
All I did was just a Facebook share
Without any comment a share that was bare
And on my 65th birthday came the biggest scare
To fight not did I dare
But with each passing day so many care
Asking for a clear air
For what is right and fair
Freedom and speech are an inseparable pair
Which so sadly here is so rare
A badge of honour forced to wear
The oppression that we must tear
However long and hard the affair
The fear must go away everywhere
So that our children will never ever fear to go there
In the poem, he lamented an apparent lack of freedom and speech in Singapore, and stated a need to tear oppression and remove fear.
He also called the successful crowdfund a “miracle on Easter Sunday”.
The issue of contention in the defamation suit revolved around a Facebook post which Mr Leong had shared on his wall.
The post alleged PM Lee’s involvement in the 1MDB corruption scandal, and of helping former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak launder money.
It was flagged by IMDA after 3 days and he promptly removed the post.
However, the defamation suit took place after, as PM Lee claimed that Mr Leong sharing the post without verifying the information was damaging to him.
The damages amounted to $100,000 for general damages and $33,000 in aggravated damages.
It’s been interesting to watch as Mr Leong raised the funds to pay his damages.
Some public figures including Mr Lim threw their support behind Mr Leong.
With this, the case is closed. Mr Leong is now free of his debt and everyone can move on from what has been a long and controversial case.
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