The individual who filed a police report against Minister Ong Ye Kung for allegedly breaching campaign rules during the recent general election recently raised questions on whether the police has sufficiently discharged its duties in their investigations.
The complainant, who identified himself as Pee Jay on Facebook, disclosed in a post on Monday (20 July) screenshots of his recent email to an investigating officer (IO), after learning that the police had issued a media statement that it will not be taking any further action against his police report on Mr Ong.
In his email, Pee Jay highlighted that the police “have remained completely silent” on whether Mr Ong committed an offence, when typically police investigations involve “taking a position on whether an offence is disclosed” and exercising “their discretion on what to do next”.
“This is a tenuous position since Ong Ye Kung has already admitted/confessed to breaching electoral rules on his own Facebook page,” he wrote.
Pee Jay also questioned the police on whether it has the authority to delegate such investigations to the Returning Officer (RO) or the Assistant Returning Officer (ARO), given that the police and the RO/ARo are “two separate administrative bodies, serving distinctly different roles and functions”.
The duties of police, he stressed, is to “detect offences and crimes”, while the RO/ARO’s scope of powers is “limited to the electoral process”.
ROs/AROs do not have police powers such as those allowing them to launch an investigation, recommend a charge against an accused person, and to be able to prosecute an accused person, among others, argued Pee Jay.
“The statement that the RO/ARO had “looked into the matter” therefore rings hollow as the RO/ARO do not play any role in “looking into” a possible offence under s83 Parliamentary Elections Act; the duty to ‘look into the matter” lies with the Police alone,” he said.
The RO/ARO, Pee Jay added, is “neither empowered by legislation nor equipped to investigate or deal with an offence under s83 Parliamentary Elections Act”.
“I would argue that for the avoidance of any doubt, the Police should fully discharge its duties by concluding its own investigations and place on record whether it has determined if Ong Ye Kung has in fact committed an offence,” he urged.
Pee Jay also called upon the Attorney-General’s Chambers to offer its views on the matter as “this is an arrestable offence”.
On 2 July — the third day of campaigning — Mr Ong had posted a three-minute video featuring a young boy who lives in Sembawang, in which they spoke about “how it is a good place to grow up” in.
Shortly after, however, Mr Ong issued an apology and took down the video after being “informed by authorities that this is not in line with electoral rules”.
Under Section 83(1)(a) of the Parliamentary Elections Act, primary and secondary school students are prohibited from partaking in any election activities — including videos such as the one uploaded by Mr Ong.
A police report was lodged against Mr Ong over the video.
Last Saturday (18 July), however, the Elections Department (ELD) and the Singapore Police Force (SPF) in a joint statement said that the latter will be taking no further action against Mr Ong as the Assistant Returning Officer (ARO) “had looked into the matter”.
Their statement added that the ARO “had issued an advisory to Mr Ong Ye Kung to remind him to comply with the law in relation to all campaigning activities”.
The authorities’ decision to take no “further action” on Mr Ong’s alleged breach of campaign rules in the recent general election has drawn criticism from members of the public.
Commenters criticised what they branded as a form of “double standards”, as politicians from alternative parties may not be treated as leniently.
One has to note that back in 2016, it was the ARO who filed police reports against individuals and entities for violation of cooling off day regulation where Teo Soh Lung and Roy Ngerng had their house ransacked and electronic devices seized by the police.
The statement from the ELD back then to justify the police reports was “Given the blatant disregard of the (rules) in the Bukit Batok by-election, the Assistant Returning Officer decided to make police reports so that the police could investigate.”
It added: “As part of the investigations, the police need to examine for evidentiary purposes electronic devices used to publish the online postings. As such, these devices had to be seized. When the investigations are completed, the police will make their recommendations to the Attorney-General’s Chambers.”
It took about ten months of investigation before the police dropped those cases with stern warnings issued while in the case of Mr Ong, no investigation by the police was even needed to dismiss the report.