SINGAPORE – The Singapore Taekwondo Federation (STF) has responded to a defamation suit brought forth by its former secretary-general, Wong Liang Ming, with a counterclaim over statements the four-time SEA Games champion made in a Facebook post on Sept 23.
In response to queries by The Straits Times, STF general secretary Lai Han Seng said: “As a federation it is not our wish to escalate the issue further.
“Although we want to resolve the matter as amicably as possible, some of the issues in her Facebook post need to be addressed.”
STF says statements Wong made on the social media post provide an “inaccurate account” of events that have transpired since she was handed a suspension by world governing body World Taekwondo (WT) in January.
The global body had stated then that she had been banned for “grave misconduct” – WT said it had received complaints from “multiple parties” that Wong’s conduct at last July’s Korea Open was “inappropriate and unbecoming (of) an official at a WT event” – and barred her from taekwondo-related activities worldwide, including Singapore.
According to WT secretary-general Hoss Rafaty, Wong was accredited as a volunteer for the Korea Open but assumed authority as “acting referee chairperson” at the meet and issued instructions to technical officials.
STF later announced the suspension on its website in May 2020. Neither the STF nor WT stated the length of the suspension.
In June, Wong, through her counsel Foxwood LLC, applied for a quashing order against STF’s decision to enforce her suspension from taekwondo-related activities in Singapore.
At the initial hearing, the matter was adjourned for Wong and STF to try resolve the matter without resorting to adjudication by the courts.
As a result, on Sept 4, the STF announced a clarification on Wong’s status, stating that she was not allowed to participate in “taekwondo activities in Singapore which are coordinated and/or sanctioned and/or organised in Singapore (including national and international Taekwondo tournaments, demonstrations and gradings) by STF” as well as “activities sanctioned and/or promoted by World Taekwondo worldwide”.
Wong, however, felt that the clarification did not “rectify or clarify the amendments” and filed a defamation suit on Sept 18. She is seeking damages upwards of $250,000, including aggravated damages and costs to be assessed.
She then made her Facebook post five days later, which STF has taken issue with.
The association said the post was taken to mean WT’s suspension was “illegal and baseless”, that STF had intended to “injure and/or embarrass” Wong, that the STF is “therefore deceitful and/or untrustworthy” and had acted in a “tyrannical” behaviour to oppress her.
The legal tussle between Wong and the STF follows a series of incidents involving the national taekwondo body and WT.
These began with WT and the Singapore National Olympic Council suspending the STF in May 2019 after the national sports association was charged with violating the world body’s rules on good governance and a failure to receive recognition from the appropriate national Olympic committee.
In August 2019, WT informed Wong of its charge against her for violating two articles of its ethics code – and a preliminary suspension, pending determination by a tribunal.
However, Wong also sent legal letters to the STF and WT informing the latter that she would “cease to participate” in the South Korea-headquartered world body’s hearing on the charges against her as it had rejected her request for a three-man tribunal, instead deciding on a one-person tribunal.