Tang ordered to pay bulk of costs
in appeal hearings
Straits Times. Dec 4,1997
BY Walter Fernandez
THE three-judge court of appeal yesterday ordered defeated Worker's Party member Tang Liang Hong to pay the bulk of the legal costs incurred by the People's Action Party leaders in a string of appeal hearings which arose during their long-drawn legal battle.
In a 17-page judgment, Justices M. Karthigesu, L. P. Thean and G. P. Selvam ordered Mr Tang, who is currently based in Melbourne, to bear the cost of three sets of appeals which he initiated against various court rulings and decisions. These were his appeals: To have Justice Lai Kew Chai dismissed from presiding over the defamation suits on the grounds that the judge was biased; Against Justice Lai's decision to strike out his defence; Against Justice Goh Joon Seng's subsequent decision to also strike out his defence because he ignored the receivership order.
Adding these latest legal costs to those already incurred during the lengthy defamation action which he lost, Mr Tang now has to pay at least a six-figure sum in costs, legal sources said.
This is on top of the $3.63 million in damages he was ordered to pay the PAP leaders for his defamatory remarks.
The lawyer, who fled Singapore soon after the January general election, has, however, maintained that he will not pay the 11 PAP leaders a single cent, and instead said he plans to start "fresh action" to strike out the judgments entered against him.
In the case of Mr Tang's 12 appeals against Justice Goh's decision to strike out his defence, the Appeal Court said that to "avoid double or multiple awards of costs" to the PAP leaders, each of them was only entitled to one set of costs.
This means that even though Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong is the respondent named in three of Mr Tang's appeals, the appeal court judges ordered that, to be fair, Mr Goh should only be allowed to claim one set of legal costs from Mr Tang.
In its judgment, the court of appeal also ordered the PAP leaders to pay Mr Tang's legal costs in two appeals -- the appeal against the Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) suit and the appeal against the overall quantum of damages awarded to the PAP leaders.
In the HPL defamation suit, Mr Tang succeeded in showing that senior minister Lee Kuan Yew and deputy prime minister Lee Hsien Loong were not entitled to any damages from him as the compensation they had recovered from his co-defendants in the case was "more than adequate".
The appeal court ordered the two PAP leaders to pay the costs of the appeal on the quantum of damages in this case.
Similarly, Mr Tang was also successful in his 12 appeals against the more than $7 million in damages awarded to the PAP leaders.
The appeal court cut the damages to $3.63 million and so awarded Mr Tang 70 per cent of the legal costs incurred.
The three appeal court judges said they decided on the figure of 70 per cent after considering Mr Tang's conduct and because several of his arguments had delayed the proceedings significantly.
The burden of these costs will be shared among the 11 PAP leaders, with each paying between 10 and 25 per cent. The legal costs for the three-day appeal hearing are expected to total about $50,000.