The Online Citizen (TOC)’s editor, Terry Xu has filed a police report against a commentary Facebook page Critical Spectator on Tuesday (7 July), over its posts made in relation to the ongoing General Election (GE).
Mr Xu posted the police report on Facebook on Tuesday, citing the Channels News Asia (CNA)’s article – which was published on 28 April 2019 – that stated Michael Petraeus is the man behind the Facebook page, who happens to be a Polish national.
“Under s83 [Section 83(1)(d)] of the Parliament[ary] Election Act, No person — who is not a citizen of Singapore, shall take part in any election activity,” he noted.
Mr Xu also cited the Election Department (ELD)’s advisory that was issued on 20 April. It cautioned political parties to “lodge a police report immediately” and “keep the Elections Department informed”, should they detect anything that could be “indicative of foreign interference in the GE”.
“As no one has done so, I have filed a police report on behalf of the political parties,” he wrote.
In the post, Mr Xu pointed out three posts published by Critical Spectator which he claimed contained “clear intent to influence the election by criticising a candidate from a particular party and on policies proposed by various parties”.
The first post was published on Tuesday (7 July), in which Mr Petraeus had criticised the Workers’ Party (WP) candidate Raeesah Khan’s role model as American Marxist feminist Angela Davis. He described Angela Davis as one of the most “odious” and “repugnant characters of the American left”.
“It’s taken a bit of mulling for me to decide whether to write this post but, ultimately, I think that as someone coming from a communist country I can’t let this issue slide,” he wrote, as he went on to explain about Angela Davis.
In another post on 6 July, Mr Petraeus compared Ms Raeesah’s case with the People’s Action Party (PAP) former candidate Ivan Lim’s case – who withdrew his candidacy after a wave of online criticism appeared over his behaviour at work and during National Service (NS).
He questioned the rationale behind Singaporeans’ support towards Ms Raeesah after she apologised on her past comments that allegedly promote “enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race”, while Mr Lim was “mercilessly hounded” and labelled as “elitist”.
“And yet, all she did was to say she’s sorry – and all I can see and read in response are voices of support and encouragement? I’m sorry, but what’s going on?” Mr Petraeus added.
While the third post that Mr Xu highlighted was made on 5 July, where Mr Petraeus wrote about why he thinks GST should be raised in Singapore instead of tapping on the nation’s reserves.
“Since some people have suggested tapping the nation’s vast reserves instead of raising the goods & services tax, I think it’s in everybody’s best interest to understand the difference in consequences between the two options,” he stated.
Xu notes that the Police has not contacted him in regards to the filed report as of time of publication.
Another Singapore citizen raised the issue about Critical Spectator Facebook page to the ELD
Meanwhile, a Singapore citizen who goes by the name Ng alerted TOC that he had also raised the issue to ELD on 30 June.
In his email to the ELD, Ng noted that his enquiry is based on the ELD’s guidelines for the mitigation of foreign interference in the GE which was published on CNA on 18 June.
The article states, “Only Singaporeans can take part in elections and campaigning. Any citizen who wants to conduct an election activity – whether online, offline, or both – for a candidate must have a written authority signed by the candidate or his election agent.”
“As I understand, ELD has stated that ‘Individuals who are not citizens of Singapore are prohibited from taking part in any election activity’.
“However, it has come to my attention that the Facebook and webpage “Critical Spectator” run by one Michael Petraeus, a Polish national, has been running politically charged articles which actively seek to shape the political narrative,” he noted.
Noting that Mr Petraeus is not a citizen of Singapore, Ng asked the ELD if the articles posted on Critical Spectator contravene with its regulations and the consequences that Mr Petraeus might be facing.
“Given that this individual is not a citizen of Singapore, nor his sources of funding transparently stated, I would like to enquire if these articles contravene ELD regulations and if so, what further actions might be taken,” he said.
Two days later on 2 July, Ng received a reply from the ELD stating that it was indeed “correct” that “individuals who are not citizens of Singapore are prohibited from taking part in any election activity”.
It added, “Election activity includes any activity which is done for the purpose of promoting or procuring the electoral success for any political party or candidate; or prejudicing the electoral prospects of other political parties or candidates at the election.”
“We will look into the matter. Thank you for your feedback,” said the ELD, without stating the actions that will be taken against Mr Petreaus.
TOC notes that no further response has been issued to Ng.