Leon Perera retracts statement on editing of parliament video by Mediacorp

Workers’ Party’s Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leon Perera has retracted his statement in Parliament on Monday (8 January) which he made earlier last year during a supplementary question. Mr Perera had referred the statement as, what he called, “incorrect recollections” of what transpired between him and Mediacorp in regards to a clip which had parts of it truncated.

Leader of the House, who is also Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu, had asked Mr Perera to withdraw the “false allegations” made in Parliament in November 2017, when Mr Perera said Mediacorp had edited and removed parts of a video of a parliamentary exchange during the Presidential Elections debate earlier in the year, adding that the national broadcaster “made rectification and put up a different clip” only after he contacted them.

Mr Perera spoke this afternoon at the Parliament in a personal statement,”I would now like to definitively withdraw my earlier statements to the effect that the video had been edited with certain bits removed and that the video had been edited and only corrected after my  intervention.”

Mr Perera quoted the exact words said during his supplementary question on 7 November,

I thank the Senior Minister of State for his reply. There was a specific example where a clip was put up in relation to the Presidential Election Act debates, if my memory serve me well, it was in January or February, and the clip that was put up of certain exchanges, there were certain bits removed. It was actually communicated with Mediacorp and through the correspondence, they actually made the rectification and put up a different clip. So, I think that was resolved quite amicably.

My point is that, in general, is it the case that all the clips that are put up are completely free of editing? I think the Senior Minister of State himself conceded that there is a certain degree of editing. So, those decisions are decisions which involve a high level of discretion. Should they be decisions handled by a private entity or should they be handled by a Government body subject to scrutiny, subject to questioning?

He further notes that he had already conceded that he may not be entirely right when Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Communication and Information, Chee Hong Tat confronted him in a follow-up question that day as his recollection might have failed him and he has to refer to the emails again.

“However, I did not deliberately misrepresent the facts of that incident to this House. I did not plan to raise this during the supplementary questions. I did so off the cuff and only in response to a request to enumerate any incidence of editing that I knew of.”

“As it turned out, my memory of the incident was inaccurate,” he added.

“I did acknowledge my memory might well be imperfect as I prefaced it with the quote ‘if my memory serves me well’. I stated explicitly, twice on that day, that the incident had been resolved amicably and did not accuse Mediacorp of partisan editing, which makes the matter of when the clip was corrected immaterial.”

“I’d also like to reiterate that the main thrust of my (questions) had been the nature and ownership of parliamentary video footage, which was clarified, and whether and how videos are edited, and why livestreaming of Parliament is not provided,” he said.

“I apologise to the House for any mistaken impression created by my failure of memory. I agree that parliamentary privilege is a privilege that should never be taken lightly. However, I did not deliberately misrepresent facts or deliberately mislead the House for whatever reason,” he said.

Responding to Mr Perera’s statement, the minister asked, “Notwithstanding his intention, whether deliberately misleading the House or otherwise, does he agree he has indeed made wrong allegations against Mediacorp?”

“I certainly agree that my recollections were imperfect. It had not been my intention to allege that Mediacorp had undertaken partisan editing of the clip. Having said that I think the statements I made contain inaccuracies and I have withdrawn them and I acknowledge that,” Mr Perera answered.

Ms Fu then asked, “And would he agree that the allegations which were untrue have indeed misled the House?”

Replying to the minister, Mr Perera said, “I do agree the statements were inaccurate and therefore misled the House.”

“But it was not my intention to make an allegation against Mediacorp of having done partisan editing to the clip,” he stressed.

Ms Fu then said, “As I said earlier, putting aside intention, the fact is that the member has indeed made untrue allegations. I thank him for acknowledging his misleading statement and also acknowledge his apology to Parliament.”

“I’d like to stress that MPs are given parliamentary privilege to speak freely and surface different views but this must not be misused to misrepresent facts or mislead Parliament,” she said.

“I’m glad Mr Perera has clarified his statement by withdrawing his false allegations against Mediacorp and apologising to Parliament. Mr Perera has indeed acknowledge he has made a mistake in recollecting his facts. I will not read too much into his intentions but statements which are wrong and made in this House deserve to be retracted if indeed untrue so the members are able to benefit from discussion and also to restore trust on each other.”

“In this way we are able to have useful and effective discussions in this House, because we believe what we say here, we have a serious basis for them and we will not make any statements unless we are very scrupulous in the facts backing them. So I hope this serves as a timely reminder for all members of the high standards of integrity and honesty we expect in this House,” she ended.