Today (25 November), political activist Brad Bowyer was asked by the government under the Protection From Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) to post a correction on a Facebook post he published on 13 November.
In a separate Facebook post today, Mr Bowyer who is currently a Progress Singapore Party member said that he amended the earlier post to include a correction with links to the government’s ‘factually’ website which states the administration’s position on the statements Mr Bowyer made.
In his own statement, Mr Bowyer said, “I have no problem in following that request as I feel it is fair to have both points of view and clarifications and corrections of fact when necessary.”
He added that he does his best to use public facts and make informed statements of opinions based on the details he has access to, saying that he does not have anything against being asked to make corrections or clarifications, especially in the public interest.
Mr Bowyer also then cautioned those who comment on Singapore domestic politics and social issues to use care and attention, “especially if you speak from a place of influence”.
He went on to express his personal feelings that POFMA was rushed through parliament and poses many opportunities for misuse, despite the government’s assurance that they will not misuse the Act and that subsequent legislation will address any gaps in the original legislation.
Mr Bowyer said, “Indeed they said as much at the time in their public statements and I take them at their word although I still feel the situation was not that urgent that a more considered piece of legislation could have been enacted after more vigorous debate and evaluation.”
He then added, “This will in no way impact my resolve or desire to do what I feel I can to improve our social and political discourse and how Singapore is governed and develops both now and in the future.”
“A responsible and vocal citizenry is as much a vital part of our democratic nation as is a responsible and listening government,” concluded Mr Bowyer.
The offending post and subsequent corrections
The post that required to be corrected under POFMA was a lengthy Facebook post in which Mr Bowyer talked about various issues from GIC investing in the Indian telco Bharti Airtel which he talked about in his accountability speech at Hong Lim Park earlier this year to Temasek’s investment in debt-ridden Salt Bae chain of restaurants and the fines that Singapore’s Keppel Corp was slapped with for its involvement in the Brazillian corruption scandal. He also mentioned the recently scrapped Amaravati city project in which Singaporean companies have invested heavily in.
In his post, Mr Bowyer had raised the question of financial accountability, saying “Is any of this wise investment by the primaries (Temasek and GIC) or fiduciary responsibility of those overseeing them as it involves public funds directly managed or indirectly injected into them?”
He added, “And this is all from the combined team we are asked to trust our futures with and the PAP claims that investors and others will lose confidence in and run away from Singapore if not resoundingly re-elected causing all sorts of disasters for us.”
On the Gov.sg Factually site, a list of corrections was made available. The site starts off by saying, “the Facebook post by Mr Brad Bowyer contains false statements of fact and misleading statements”.
One of the statements that the government corrected relates to Mr Bowyer’s apparent implication that the Singapore Government is involved in the investment decisions by Temasek and GIC which the government asserts is “false”.
The correct says, “The Government does not influence, let alone direct, the individual investment decisions made by Temasek and GIC. Which companies they invest in, or divest from, is entirely the responsibility of their respective management teams. The Government likewise does not interfere in the commercial decisions of Temasek’s and GIC’s portfolio companies.”
“Temasek and GIC are run on market principles, independent of the Government. Many of their portfolio companies are publicly listed. The Government’s role is to ensure that Temasek and GIC have competent boards, which ensure that their respective mandates are met. The Government also holds the boards of Temasek and GIC accountable for their respective overall performances.”
Regarding Mr Bowyer’s assertion that Temasek invested in the debt-ridden parent company which owns Salt Bae, the government also asserts this is “false”.
They said, “The Salt Bae chain of restaurants is owned by a company called D.ream International BV, which operates 60 restaurants throughout the world via four operating subsidiaries. Temasek invested in D.ream International BV, and not in one of D.ream International BV’s shareholders called Doğuş Holding A.Ş. The company that is reportedly in difficulties according to the article cited by Mr Bowyer, is Doğuş Holding A.Ş., and not D.ream International BV.”
Other additional clarifications the government made were that they said Mr Bowyer “Mr Bowyer uses false and misleading statements to smear the reputation of Temasek and GIC” and that his suggestion that Keppel Corporation or its subsidiary has suffered a loss due to the fine imposed is also “misleading”.
With regards to the Amaravati Project, the statement simply said that Mr Bowyer made a “sweeping statement” that the S$4 billion investments by GLCs and related parties in the project have been doing poorly “but gave no basis for it”.
To read the full corrections, click here.