The Ministry for Finance in an email to TOC on Tuesday late evening, informed the publication that the Minster of Finance, Heng Swee Keat has decided to reject the application to cancel the correction direction issued on Sunday (19 April).
Mr Heng had earlier instructed the POFMA Office to issue four correction directions under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) relating to posts made about the salary of Temasek Holding’s CEO Ho Ching, who is also the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
In a statement on 19 April, the POFMA office said that the instructions from the Minister of Finance were to issue correction directions to HardwareZone user ‘darkseidluv’, The Temasek Review’s Facebook page, The Online Citizen’s Facebook page and website and Mr Lim Tean for sharing this falsehood on his Facebook page.
The correction order noted that is the opinion of the Finance Minister that it is in the public interest to issue these directions.
As noted in a Facebook post on the same day, TOC had filed its application to cancel the correction direction on the article in question, “Taiwan news reports that Ho Ching makes S$99 million a year as Executive Director and CEO of Temasek Holdings“, to the Minister.
In its application to the Minister, TOC noted that the Minister has not identified the statement(s) within the article which contains the alleged falsehood and that it did not make any statement of fact in regards to Mdm Ho’s salary. Furthermore, it had quantified its report as reportage of statement of claims made by a Taiwan news outlet and a speculation made by a blogger.
It also pointed out in its application that the government does not seem to know the actual salary of Mdm Ho as Second Minister of Finance, Lawrence Wong had said in Parliament on 8 May 2019 that the Government keeps an “arms-length relationship” with GIC and Temasek Holdings, and does not get involved in their operational decisions, such as remunerations. Mr Wong also refused to reply the question filed by Member of Parliament, Png Eng Huat about the actual salary of the Temasek CEO, even when probed further by Mr Png in Parliament. As such, how can the Government issue a correction direction for something it does not know for sure?
TOC will be filing its POFMA appeal application to the High Court within the next few days.
Taiwan news outlet not served with POFMA correction notice
While the correction notice made references to social media posts made on the subject on Facebook and HardwareZone Forum, it did not identify the Taiwan news outlet that made the initial claim as the source of the alleged false claim.
TOC had earlier sent a media query to both POFMA office and MOF’s POFMA office on whether any correction direction has been served to the Taiwan news outlet that made the original report.
On 22 April, the MOF’s communication office replied that Minister for Finance did not issue a correction direction to the “Taiwan news outlet”.
Government asserts that the claim is false
On the government’s website Gov.sg, a post on the correction said that “there were false statements of fact contained in a number of social media posts” about the annual salary of Ho Ching.
The website noted, “The Authors made various claims that the annual salary of Temasek CEO Ms Ho Ching is ‘NT$ 2.1 billion’, ‘about 100 million SGD’ or ‘S$99 million a year’.”
It asserted that these claims are “false”, referring to a statement on the Temasek Holdings website published on Sunday as well.
The state-owned investment management firm denied claims that its CEO Ho Ching earns an annual salary of S$99 million. Though it rarely ever addressed the matter of remuneration of its top management, this time Temasek addressed the claims of Ho Ching’s salary directly, merely saying that the claim is “false”. Temasek also noted that Ho Ching’s annual compensation is not the highest within the firm nor is she among the top five highest paid executives.
Gov.sg also provided additional clarifications on the matter, saying that “the Government does not set the remuneration of staff in Temasek; this is the responsibility of its Board and management”.
It continued, “In the case of Temasek, its Board Committee, the Leadership Development and Compensation Committee (‘LDCC’), is responsible for the establishment of guidelines and policies on performance measurement and compensation plans.”
The site noted that the remuneration of the Executive Directors of Temasek Holdings is approved by LDCC and endorsed by its Board.
Highlighting that Temasek’s remuneration framework “balances reward for short-term performance and long-term value creation”, the site added that the company’s compensation framework is “benchmarked to the industry and the compensation framework comprises a base salary, as well as short-term, medium-term, and long-term incentives”.
It added, “Temasek has also publicly stated that Ms Ho Ching’s annual compensation is neither the highest within Temasek, nor is she amongst the top five highest paid executives in Temasek.“
Edit on 22 April: Updated the response from Ministry of Finance on 22 April