On Friday (3 January), the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has submitted its application to cancel the three correction directions issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) under Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).

In a brief media statement, SDP said that it had submitted the application at around 2.50pm to MOM.

Last month, MOM issued three Correction Directions (CDs) to SDP for three online postings, alleging that the statements made regarding employment in Singapore were false.

MOM has asked the opposition party to carry a correction notice stating that two of its Facebook posts and an article on its website contain a misleading graphic and false statement of facts.

The ministry claims that the graphical illustration depicting that plunging local PMET employment featured in SDP’s sponsored Facebook post on 2 Dec, is wrong.

The ministry also claims that the graphical illustration depicting that plunging local PMET employment in the post is wrong. MOM pointed to its Comprehensive Labour Force Survey which showed a steady rise of local PMETs employment since 2015.

In the press release, MOM said the article contains a statement, “The SDP’s proposal comes amidst a rising proportion of Singaporean PMETs getting retrenched” which it claims to be also wrong as there is no rising trend of local PMET retrenchments.

It went on to state that the alleged false and misleading statements by the SDP have a singular objective, which is to stoke fear and anxiety among local PMETs.

It is important to set the facts straight so that Singaporeans are not misled, said MOM.

Following the CDs by MOM, SDP complied with the request and added a correction note to both of the Facebook posts as well as the article.

However, on 2 January (Thursday), SDP refuted MOM’s claims and penned a detailed statement on its website about the issues it has with the directives.

In its statement, SDP said that the party’s statements in the three posts which MOM issued the correction directions, were indeed true and correct.

In fact, the party cited statistics published by MOM itself to prove what Ms Teo deemed wrong in the correction directions were actually true.

“The problem lies with the fact that MOM had accused the SDP of making statements that we did not make or cited different sets of data which is then used to accuse the SDP’s post as false. This is an abuse of POFMA,” SDP said.

It added, “Clearly, the MOM has used the law for political-partisan purposes to stymie legitimate criticism of the PAP’s foreign PMET policy that has been and continues to be unfair to Singaporeans.”

“That the general election is not far away makes our case even more salient.”

As such, the party called for Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo to retract the directives and issue an “immediate, unambiguous and public apology over the matter”.

In response to media queries, an MOM spokesperson said the Ministry has received the application and is assessing it.

Home Affairs Minister rejects States Times Review application

Separately, the Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has rejected an application submitted by the States Times Review (STR) website to cancel a correction order issued under POFMA.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) stated in a statement on Friday (3 January) that the application “simply restated the false statements and provided no evidence to disprove the grounds on which the correction direction was issued”.

It added, “After having carefully considered the Application, the Minister for Home Affairs has decided to reject it.”

It also mentioned that Alex Tan, the website’s administrator, has been informed about Mr Shanmugam’s decision.

On 28 November 2019, a correction direction was issued to Mr Tan, who runs STR Facebook page, to make a correction on its post about NUSSU – NUS Students United Facebook post relating to People’s Action Party (PAP) member Ms Rachel Ong.

The post in question had cited the NUSSU – NUS Students United post about Ms Ong’s alleged religious affiliations and called for her to resign from all executive positions in the organisation in question. STR had cited the original NUSSU Facebook post and commented that one person involved in the matter had been arrested and that the police were investigating another.

MHA asserted that these claims are false, saying that no one has been arrested or charged in relation to the post.

The Ministry revealed in a statement on 28 November that it rebutted all the statements made by STR.

“A correction direction was issued to Alex Tan on Nov 28, 2019, requiring him to insert a correction notice stating that the Facebook post contained false statements of fact. To date, Alex Tan has not complied with the correction direction.”

Given that Mr Tan’s application has been rejected, he now has 14 days to file an appeal with the High Court. In a Facebook post, he noted that STR “will be applying to the High Court to repeal his POFMA order issued on 28 Nov 2019”.

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