SINGAPORE: Faced with proof that he made multiple contradictory statements to the police and the court on Thursday (Apr 7), Yang Kaiheng admitted on the stand: “I am lying.”
Yang is on trial over seven seditious posts published on the now-defunct sociopolitical blog The Real Singapore (TRS).
His admission came after Deputy Public Prosecutor G Kannan highlighted a discrepancy in Yang's account of when he had met his then-girlfriend Ai Takagi. He revealed the prosecution possessed “very personal and embarrassing” messages recovered from Yang’s phone which show he met Takagi shortly before Sep 1, 2011 and not earlier in the year, as Yang had claimed.
A day before, Yang testified he set up the Facebook page "Petition to remove Tin Pei Ling as MP" together with Takagi, to whom he is now married. He said they had created the page from Brisbane, Australia following Singapore’s 2011 General Election (GE). DPP Kannan said Yang’s story was "unbelievable", as the 2011 GE occurred in May, when the couple had not yet met.
“You have spun this fictitious background about Takagi. You lied about her involvement because you want this court to believe she … became interested in Singapore politics by following the GE with you”, DPP Kannan told Yang.
The prosecution accused Yang of lying about Takagi’s involvement in the page because he “needed an explanation as to why ... an Australian girl took over TRS, a site dealing entirely with local issues”.
DPP Kannan said Yang set up the Facebook page alone but needed a "believable story" on why Takagi was later involved.
ALL I’M TRYING TO DO IS MAKE SURE I DON’T GET INTO TROUBLE: YANG
The prosecution also pressed Yang over his inconsistent and contradictory responses to questions posed to him by the police during investigations and in court.
DPP Kannan pointed out that Yang had previously told police he did not know what Elance, an online staffing platform, was. However, in court, Yang executed a “180-degree turn”, giving “detailed information” on Elance’s services, the prosecutor said.
“All I am trying to do is be defensive and make sure that I don’t get into trouble”, Yang responded.
DPP Kannan said Yang, after discovering that the prosecution had obtained his Elance account information, realised it would have been ludicrous to deny it. "You then had no choice but to change your story."
The prosecution also called Yang out for denying that TRS had been a business venture from the outset. DPP Kannan, relying on court transcripts, said Yang had not referred to TRS as a “business venture” until he was forced to explain a video in which he said TRS was a business that generated advertising revenue.
This contradicts statements Yang gave to the police, in which he said he had never thought of TRS as a revenue-generating business.
“This was an intentional denial on your part, of what you now fully admit in court,” DPP Kannan stated, adding that Yang’s explanations for his inconsistent statements are “quite absurd”.
“I didn’t want to say anything (because) I had no lawyer” Yang said, on questions posed to him by police.
“That is television. This is real life”, DPP Kannan told him, reminding Yang that he had in fact engaged counsel by this time, pointing to letters from Choo Zheng Xi to the Attorney General’s Chambers in relation to Yang’s case.
I TAKE PRIDE IN SETTING UP TRS: YANG
Yang was also questioned by his own lawyer, Mr Choo, earlier on Thursday. Yang said he had not written or edited any articles for the website as his standard of English is not good enough. "I can’t write a paragraph without any grammatical errors,” he told the court.
Mr Choo also asked Yang to explain why he had referred to TRS as “my website” although he claimed not to have been involved in its day-to-day operations. “I take pride in setting up the website (and having a hand in its) initial development. I did not see a need to disassociate myself from the website”, Yang responded.
Guided by his lawyer, Yang explained his friend K Sudesh Durai had coached him in what to say in the video. Mr Sudesh told him to “upsell your portfolio" for a higher chance of winning a start-up competition, Yang said.
The 27-year-old will take the stand again on Friday.