SMU President Lily Kong Lied About NUS COI

31 December 2018

Dear friends,

It has been a while since I last posted. It has been an emotionally difficult time for me.

The hearing in my trial ended in November 2017. The Court’s decision was released on 9 July 2018.

I promised that I would let everyone know when the Court notified me of the date to attend Court to receive its decision. However, I was asked to go and pick up the written judgment on 9 July 2018 through a phone call. 

I lost all my claims against NUS. 

Needless to say, I am very upset with the verdict. I was also very shocked to read the judgment. It just did not add up.

The High Court found that NUS officers were incorrect in various key points in my case. The High Court even found that NUS was "wrong" to impose certain demands upon me, an to make the award of my Master of Arts degree conditional on my compliance with those wrongful demands, in a letter dated 11 August 2006.  However, the High Court concluded that NUS officers were not liable for abuse of power and breach of contract when they withheld my MA degree from me despite the uncontested fact that I had completed all the academic requirements to qualify for the MA degree. (NUS even sent me the graduation ceremony invitation letter in 2006!)

Strangers wrote to me to offer their “condolences.” I thank you all who reached out to me privately or personally after the news of my loss was reported.

I am appealing the High Court's judgment, so I will be updating here.

Below are two examples of why the judgment is problematic. I post the entire Court Judgment here so you can verify the context. However, I take issue with numerous points in the judgment. These issues can only be put right through an appeal to the Court of Appeal.

So that's the next step.

In Singapore, appeals to the Court of Appeal are expensive. The filing fee alone for filing the Notice of Appeal is S$1,000+!  When I tried to submit my Notice of Appeal to the Court, the Court rejected my Notice of Appeal, because I couldn't afford to pay the $20,000 security deposit which the Court requires.  So, even though I have strong grounds to appeal, the Court refused to let me begin to appeal, because I couldn't afford to pay the S$20,000 security deposit.  I have submitted an application to the Court, asking the Court of Appeal to grant me a waiver of the S$20,000 security deposit. The Court rules impose several hoops that people have to jump through if they want to have their cases heard in Court.  Unfortunately, for an appeal to the Court of Appeal these "hoops" include costly filing fees and the $20,000 security deposit (see the details near the end of this post).  

Donation Details

Bank: POSB 193-69702-0
PayLah!: 93884036
(Scroll to the end of this post for more bank transfer details.)

The secret COI findings and the fact that Vice-Provost lied to me about the findings of the COI

The factual evidence:
(1)  The COI that was convened to investigate my complaint found that Dr Wong Yunn Chii had failed to “systematically clarify how he would acknowledge [my] work...” when he used my MA thesis to generate his research project.
(2) The COI recommended that Dr Wong be censured for his failure to supervise my work properly and this failure included a failure to clarify how he would acknowledge my Thesis as noted above.
(3) The Vice-Provost of Education misled me into believing that Dr Wong had been exonerated by the COI.

The Court confirmed that the Vice-Provost of Education Lily Kong was incorrect in withholding the COI’s conclusion from me.

NUS took the position that the VP Lily Kong did indeed censure my then Supervisor Dr Wong and disclosed a letter from Vice-Provost Kong to Dr Wong.

However, having seen the letter, I feel that it was more of a slap on the wrist. 

Vice-Provost Kong did not even tell Dr Wong that the COI found that he had failed to “systematically clarify how he would acknowledge [my] work...” when he used my MA thesis to generate his research project.

This is an important point to highlight to Dr Wong as it came closest to my complaint regarding Dr Wong's improper use of my MA Thesis (without acknowledgement.)

This clearly points to the protection of, and the cover-up of a wrong-doer.

An unreasonable graduation condition

As if protecting and covering-up for Dr Wong was not enough, Vice-Provost Kong attempted to white-wash the whole record by wrongfully demanding that I write to NUS to state that I accept the university decisions regarding my complaint.

In Court, NUS tried to argue that this condition was not imposed, and that I had misunderstood the construction of the sentence.

In Court, Vice-Provost Lily Kong denied statements in her email to her superior (the Provost, who later became the President of NUS), which clearly supported the fact that she had wrongfully imposed the unreasonable graduation condition on me.

The judge found that Vice-Provost Kong did in fact impose this unreasonable condition on me.

Something must change

How matters have turned out from the day I blew the whistle on my Supervisor in March 2005 upsets me a lot because the way things are done in our public institutions have apparently not improved.

Apart from the legal case, the first example above highlights something very inadequate in the NUS system. The lack of transparency (the university’s refusal to give me a copy of the COI Report) enabled Vice-Provost Kong to essentially lie to me that Dr Wong had been exonerated by the COI.

Vice-Provost Kong does not appear to have to be accountable for her wrongful actions.

After I (my candidature) was terminated by NUS, Vice-Provost Kong was appointed to positions such as Vice-President of NUS and Executive Vice-President of the Yale-NUS College in NUS. 

Vice-Provost Kong left NUS in 2015, as my legal case was going on, to join another public university.

She was appointed Provost of Singapore Management University (SMU) in 2015. In 2017, as my NUS legal case was going on, Provost Lily Kong was identified as the most suitable candidate to lead the Singapore Management University as its University President. This was after a publicised global search for a suitable candidate!

President Lily Kong commences her appointment in 2019. 

(It is crossing midnight this very moment as I write, so Provost Lily Kong is now officially President Lily Kong. Happy New Year everyone!)

SMU President Lily Kong’s unreasonable conduct in terminating my MA candidature and protecting a wrong-doer (my then supervisor Dr Wong) reveal her poor exercise of judgment, to say the very least. 

But the powers that appointed her as University President don't seem to have a problem with that.

I strongly feel that this is very wrong. Singapore can do better!

My appeal to the Court of Appeal

I am now a Litigant-in-Person in my bid to get the Court of Appeal to hear my case.

I am not sure if the Court of Appeal will be willing to hear my appeal. I am pleading this as a “matter of public interest” amongst other reasons.

A hearing in the Court of Appeal is more expensive than a hearing in the High Court.

My first attempt in filing the Notice of Appeal in August 2018 was rejected due to the fact that I was unable to furnish a S$20,000 security.

I have filed an application to the Court of Appeal to ask the Court of Appeal for a dispensation for payment of security for cost citing grounds of public interest in my legal case and of course the fact that I cannot afford the security cost. Needless to say, I also believe that my appeal has merits.

Hopefully, the Court of Appeal will grant my application as my case is a matter of public interest.

Unfortunately, the cost of every application is very expensive. For example, my first attempt to file the Notice of Notice Appeal in August 2018 cost $S1,000+.

The application I just filed to the Court of Appeal to allow me to refile the above Notice of Appeal out of time and to dispense with the $20,000 security costs is S$627.60. It remains to be seen if the Court is going to accept my application. 

Keeping my fingers crossed!

Again, thank you to all of you who have written to me in the months before the judgment was issued and those of you who reached out to me after reading the judgment online. 

If you would like to help me financially in my appeal, here are my bank details:

Donation Details



POSB Everyday Savings Account 193-69702-0

Ten Leu Jiun Jeanne-Marie

DBS Bank Pte Ltd
12 Marina Boulevard,
DBS Asia Central,
Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 3,
Singapore 018982

Bank swift code:

Branch code:

Happy 2019! May it be a good year for you!

9th Day of Trial

1 November 2017
(Posted on 7 Nov 2017)

Dear friends,

Thank you for attending my trial and for your show of support!

Also, a big thank you to those of you who sent me funds for my court hearing fees, which is still short of the total amount needed. (I will post separately about the donations.)

I am overwhelmed and fatigued at this moment. The 1st day of court trial was on 1 August 2017 and the last day of the cross-examination was on 1 November 2017. The beginning of the trial seems like ages ago and these three months have been extremely stressful. It also feels like I was in a nightmare, being moved along by the unfolding revelations at trial and reliving through unhappy events that happened twelve years ago. Needless to say, there were many painful moments. Finally, the witness testimony/cross-examination part of the trial is over. Both sides will tender their Closing Statements later. I will post the timeline later.

NUS had tried to make me give up (through their applications for bankruptcy and "Unless" orders etc.,) and I am glad that I kept on fighting, and I will fight till the very end.

1st witness of the day - Dr Wong Yunn Chii

Dr Wong Yunn Chii gave his testimony in the morning.

People have often asked about Dr Wong's project which I claimed to be based on my MA Thesis. What happened to it? Well, the truth is that the project was never completed! Although my lawsuit started in 2012, NUS only pleaded in 2015 that Dr Wong's project was "aborted." From 2013 to 2015, I tried to get NUS to disclose documents related to the project. NUS had initially argued that the project was not relevant to the lawsuit and only changed its pleadings abruptly in 2015 to claim that the project was "aborted."

The shocking truth about this project is that it was listed as "completed" on the NUS website from around 2011 (I believe) until it was taken down from the website in 2015! Now this is after Dr Wong had spent $19,030.51 of the MOE (Ministry of Education) grant of $80,820. According to NUS, the unused portion has been returned to the MOE.

Of course NUS claims that the project was put up as "completed" by mistake. I find it hard to believe that Dr Wong or someone in a position of responsibility did not know how it came about to be published on the website. Dr Wong testified in Court that the information was put up by some low-ranking NUS employee on the NUS Architecture Department's webpage and he had no knowledge of it. (He was the Head of the Department of Architecture from 2007 to early 2017 and he claimed during cross-examination that he was unaware that this piece of information was put up on the Department's webpage for years!)

On that particular NUS webpage, Assoc Prof Wong Yunn Chii and Prof Heng Chye Kiang (Dean of the School of Design and Environment from 2007 to 2016) are listed as the investigator and collaborator of the "completed" project. I find it very hard to believe that during all those four years (or so), NO ONE had ever approached the two academics to congratulate them or discussed the project with them, in which case the two academics would have been alerted to the "error," and taken down the listing. Instead, all those years, this "erroneously" listed project sat prominently on top of the list of "completed" projects on the NUS Department of Architecture webpage that listed all the Department's "completed" projects to date.

Here is the listing of "completed" research projects from the top page of the NUS Architecture Department's website before and after NUS took down the particular listing in April 2015. 

- Now you see the project (first on the list, printed on 5 April 2015). 

- Now you don't see the project (printed on 27 April 2015). 

- Now you see the project "cached" (printed on 29 April 2015).

Moreover, as far as the disclosed NUS documents and relevant NUS affidavit in the lawsuit reveal, the Defendant NUS has disclosed absolutely no evidence showing that Dr Wong's project was ever properly terminated according to NUS' own rules or Standard Operating Procedures for terminating MOE-funded research projects.  

This is the NUS form stipulating MOE's Standard Operating Procedure for the termination of a project. (NUS has in effect, by affidavit, claimed in this lawsuit that "ANNEX C" does not exist.)

Disclosed NUS documents also reveal that when Dr Wong could not move along in the project, he blamed me! Here's an example of his blame game in an email dated 15 April 2007 explaining why he had made little progress since being awarded the project grant (more than) two years ago before this email was written.

Note: Dr Wong was wrong when he wrote that I did not submit my "dissertation" in the email above. I submitted my finalised MA Thesis on 31 August 2006 and NUS has a record of my MA Thesis all this time and NUS disclosed my MA Thesis in this lawsuit in 2013.

But at the end of six years, from 2005 to 2011, Dr Wong still did not complete the project. This is the last internal NUS email exchange between Dr Wong and his superior regarding the unfinished project that the Defendant NUS only disclosed to me in 2015 during the lawsuit. (However, in NUS' pleadings in 2015, NUS took the position that the project was "aborted.") 

So, Dr Wong's original game plan was apparently to first use my MA Thesis to generate his project and then hire me to be a researcher to transfer the knowledge and data that I had already gathered and developed in my MA Thesis to his project. After I complained about Dr Wong, the project was in a state of paralysis, because frankly, it was very difficult for Dr Wong to find someone to replace a research position that Dr Wong had intended for me. I had after all, already worked on my MA Thesis, the basis of Dr Wong's project, for more than two years, before Dr Wong used the content of my MA Thesis for his project proposal and grant application.

I was not concerned, and never have been concerned, about losing the job as a researcher in Dr Wong's project. Having to be about to complete or already completed my MA Thesis in 2004/2005, I was more concerned about being given due acknowledgment by Dr Wong for his use of my MA Thesis to generate the project.

I understand from the Defendant's disclosed documents that Dr Wong had used most of the expended $19,030.51 to hire students to do research for him, but Dr Wong still had problems with moving the project along. The fact is that my real role in the project would have been much more than to wait for instructions from Dr Wong on what to find and how to find the relevant data, I would have taken a pro-active role in sourcing for the relevant data and put them in order for the second stage of the project (the digital visualisation stage).

Just to recap, my MA Thesis was on the urban, architectural and social history of Commercial Square/Raffles Place from 1822-1920s. Although Dr Wong's project is titled a (3-D) visualisation of Commercial Square, the computerised 3-D visualisation would be the second phase of the project. The first phase of his project would be the search for historical-archival material such as business listings, written records, maps, building plans, photos etc. The material has to be analysed and collated to construct a history of Raffles Place and its various stages of development through time. This task was already completed in my MA Thesis (up to the 1920s). The methodology I employed and the historical account in my MA Thesis would be the basis for bringing the chronology to the present period. 

This is what Dr Wong wrote in his grant application dated 17 December 2004. The research and analysis he described as points 1 and 2 in the table (see below) were already covered in my MA Thesis (for the period from 1822 to the 1920s). His descriptions in points 1 and 2 were a summary of the research and analysis which I had been working on from late 2002 to early 2005 in my thesis. 

Dr Wong had, with the knowledge of what I had already written in my MA Thesis, applied for a research grant dated 17 December 2004 for the proposed research project. Dr Wong's grant application boldly and dishonestly claimed that:


This is contrary to what Dr Wong wrote to me on 5 August 2005. (I dutifully gave him my MA Thesis material following his request.)


I should also clarify that my complaint against Dr Wong to NUS in 2005 was about Dr Wong's use of my MA Thesis to generate a project without due acknowledgment. Whether or not Dr Wong eventually employed me or whether he managed to finish his project are separate issues.

Dr Wong admitted in Court that his project would still need further research to be done on the chronology from where my MA Thesis left off (in the 1920s). So my MA Thesis was indeed the "basis" and "content" of his project. Dr Wong actually envisioned and proposed in his grant application – and the proposed, planned project for which he was awarded a grant of $80,820 – was a project that was obviously based on ideas and information that I had already sourced and developed in my MA Thesis.

2nd witness of the day - Prof Jeffrey Pinsler SC

Prof Pinsler gave his testimony in the afternoon. 

Prof Pinsler is a law professor in NUS. NUS appointed him to be the Chairperson of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) that investigated my complaints against Dr Wong in 2005.

Prof Pinsler's behaviour on the witness stand surprised me. He got visibly agitated with the question that was posed to him during cross-examination and told my lawyer that "he could read English" when all my lawyer was trying to do was to establish the position of the person writing a certain email which Prof Pinsler was being cross-examined on. This is a routine aspect of the cross-examination process. 

Prof Pinsler insisted that I had no right to know the names of the faculty members who made up the COI that NUS convened to investigate my complaint. I am very disappointed that this is the system in operation in a world-class institution. (First of all, it is not transparent. And, what if I object to one of the COI members because he/she is a close associate of Dr Wong?)

If not for the discovery process in this lawsuit, I would never have known who were the members of the COI (except for the Chairperson), nor what were the Terms of Reference or agenda in the COI. I would never have seen the COI Report which I do find to be highly problematic after reading it. Yet NUS tried to force me to accept the university's decisions regarding my complaint as a condition for NUS to confer me my Master's degree. When I refused to go along with NUS' coverup in its investigations of my complaint against Dr Wong, NUS terminated my MA degree candidature and denied me my MA degree.


These events go back twelve years. I find all these to be very troubling and very tragic.

* * * 

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