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Debate Association Singapore says it acted fairly over sexual allegations against man who later committed suicide

Debate Association Singapore says it acted fairly over sexual allegations against man who later committed suicide

Lucas Li died by suicide on Aug 8, 2018. (Photo: Facebook/Tributes to Lucas Li)

SINGAPORE: The Debate Association Singapore, which is being sued by the father of one of its ex-members, has said in defence papers that it acted fairly in its actions relating to allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr Lucas Li Guangsheng, who subsequently committed suicide. 

The association also argued that some of the matters claimed by the father are "scandalous, frivolous and or vexatious" and reserved its right to get them struck out at the appropriate stage.

The deceased was the founding director of its Debate Development Initiative (DDI) between 2012 and 2014. He died by suicide aged 31 on Aug 8, 2018, after the association issued a public statement about allegations of sexual misconduct against him, without naming him.

READ: Father sues Debate Association Singapore after his son committed suicide following sexual misconduct allegations

The statement alleged inappropriate behaviour by Lucas, who represented Singapore in international debate competitions in 2005. He moderated a WhatsApp chat group called DDI Darkness, where he allegedly exchanged sexual comments with chat group participants.

He is also accused of pressuring a member of the group to exchange explicit photos, culminating in a sexual encounter that he initiated.

A day before Lucas' suicide, the association's executive committee (EXCO) issued a statement titled "Allegations of Misconduct Against A Former Director of the Debate Development Initiative" on its website and the Singapore Debaters' Facebook page.

The statement said that the EXCO had decided to file a police report and to permanently ban the ex-director from all events held by the association as well as to notify partner organisations to prevent him from entering any competitions or camps he co-organised.

Lucas' father, Mr Lawrence Li See Kit, launched a lawsuit against the association earlier this year, claiming negligence in the way they handled investigations and the publication of allegations against his son.

He alleges that their actions led to his son's suicide when they knew he suffered from depression. He also points to the president of the association's EXCO at the time, Ms Cherylyn Wee, claiming that she pressured the other members to take action against his son.

He claims that Ms Wee had "a strained relationship" with Lucas, was "resentful" of his role or influence and "instigated" investigations against him.

ASSOCIATION ACTED FAIRLY: LAWYERS

The association's lawyers, Mr Darren Tan and Mr Joshua Tan from Invictus Law, said it had acted fairly, bona fide and without any bias or predetermination in filing a police report, banning Lucas from events and alerting partner organisations.

They said in papers seen by CNA that the association was entitled to rely on an audit report at a July 2018 EXCO meeting. The report disclosed that Lucas had acted inappropriately towards members of the chat group, most of whom were then minors. This included an incident which involved sexual acts performed by Lucas in the presence of a minor.

The association denies that its EXCO members knew or ought to have suspected that Lucas was mentally vulnerable, or that its statement was likely to cause him psychological harm or triggered suicidal thoughts.

The association said it acted reasonably and in good faith in making its decision to publicise the allegations, given their nature and the fact that minors were involved.

It did not explicitly name Lucas, nor did it state that identities of parties involved could be disclosed upon request, it claimed.

The association also said the allegations against Ms Wee are "completely without basis and mere afterthoughts".

In reply, the plaintiff's lawyer Mr Paul Ong said his client reserves the right to strike out any part of the defence for being scandalous, frivolous, vexatious, disclosing no reasonable defence or for being an abuse of the process of court.

Source: CNA/ll(rw)

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