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SDP calls for fairness in implementation of Cooling-off Day regulations

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) responds to the police reports filed by the Election Department (ELD) against socio-political site, The Independent Singapore (TISG) and two individuals – Teo Soh Lung and Roy Ngerng by saying that ELD should discharge its duty in a non-partisan manner but it must also be seen to do so.

TISG, Ms Teo and Mr Ngerng were said to have published several online articles and postings that may be tantamount to election advertising, on Cooling-Off Day and Polling Day of the recent Bukit Batok by-election.

In the media statement penned by Dr Wong Souk Yee, chairperson of SDP, also noted that PAP candidates such as Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Ms Tin Pei Lin has also contravened the regulations in previous elections.

The party reiterates its call for the ELD to function and to operate independently from the Prime Minister Office and for an independent elections commission to look into breaches of campaign rules and regulations without fear or favour.

It went on to lambast the seemingly double standards where "local pro-PAP traditional media" are exempted from the regulations and aired "partisan and biased views", favouring one party at the expense of another.

Below is the full statement by SDP

It is unfortunate that the Elections Department (ELD) has chosen to file reports against Mr Roy Ngerng and Ms Teo Soh Lung when countless other individuals have posted material related to the by-election in Bukit Batok.

This includes PAP candidates such as Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Ms Tin Pei Lin in previous elections.

This is the problem when the ELD works under the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). The Department must not only discharge its duty in a non-partisan manner but it must also be seen to do so.

The SDP takes the opportunity to reiterate our call for the ELD to function and operate independently from the PMO and for an independent elections commission to look into breaches of campaign rules and regulations without fear or favour.

Only then can elections in Singapore be genuinely free and fair. Currently, Singapore's electoral process is considered by international standards to be far from democratic and transparent.

The report against The Independent website must also be called into question. According to the ELD, Cooling-off Day is described as a “24-hour campaign silence period to give voters some time to reflect rationally on issues raised during the election before going to the polls.” (http://www.eld.gov.sg/elections_parliamentary.html)

Yet, for some reason, newspapers and television are exempted from this ruling and, as a result, partisan and biased views have been aired in the local pro-PAP traditional media without allowing affected individuals the right of reply.

A good example is the publication of a statement by Dr Derek da Cunha in the Straits Times which cited untrue statements by Mrs Lina Chiam critical of Dr Chee Soon Juan. This was done on Cooling-off Day of the recent by-election which meant that Dr Chee could not respond lest his remarks be construed as campaigning and therefore contravening regulations.

This is manifestly unfair and contradicts the spirit of the law governing the cooling-off period. It is necessary to emphasise again that laws and regulations must apply equally to all and not used to favour one party at the expense of another.

We look forward to justice taking its course in this case and election laws being rationalised to treat all individuals and media fairly.