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POFMA Correction Directions issued to Kenneth Jeyaretnam and online publication Jom over posts on ministerial rental of Ridout Road properties

SINGAPORE – The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) has issued Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) correction directions to Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Secretary General of the Reform Party, Mr Thamil Selvan, and online publication Jom.

These actions were taken in response to various articles and social media posts that alleged irregularities related to the rental of two black-and-white bungalows on Ridout Road by Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

The controversy began in early May when it emerged that the two ministers were renting these iconic properties, managed by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). Mr Jeyaretnam stoked public interest by raising questions about the rental arrangement, suggesting that the ministers might be enjoying rents below the fair market value, especially since the SLA is a statutory board overseen by the Minister for Law.

However, investigations by the Corruption Practices Investigation Bureau and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean found no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing or preferential treatment given to the ministers.

In response to the allegations made by Mr Jeyaretnam and Mr Selvan, Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong has instructed for POFMA correction directions to be issued.

These directives were in response to claims by both men that the SLA had awarded renovation contracts for the bungalows to Livspace because its CEO is Mr Shanmugam’s son.

The Ministry dismissed these assertions as false. Both Mr Jeyaretnam and Mr Selvan are now required to carry a correction notice on their respective social media platforms, clarifying that their previous posts contained false statements.

Furthermore, an online publication, Jom, has been served correction directions over an article published on 7 July.

It was said in the press release that the publication alleged that SM Teo did not satisfactorily respond to questions on potential conflicts of interest and possible breaches of the ministerial code of conduct.

It also said that Jom also claimed that the SLA had spent over S$1 million (US$0.76 million) renovating both bungalows because the ministers were tenants.

In addition, the press release claimed that Jom had suggested that the government had caused Instagram to geo-block a post by Charles Yeo, the former Reform Party chairman.

MinLaw and the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) then criticised Jom’s report for omitting key details from Minister Teo’s statements in parliament on 3 July.

According to the ministries, SM Teo clarified the importance of adhering to both the spirit and the letter of the code of conduct for ministers.

SM Teo also claims that since Mr Shanmugam had fully recused himself from all matters relating to the rental of the bungalow at 26 Ridout Road, any potential or actual conflict of interest is thereby eliminated.

Addressing Jom’s claims about the cost of the renovations, the ministries stressed that the tenants’ identities had no bearing on the expenditure.

They explained that the renovations were undertaken according to SLA’s standard practices and assessed as necessary given the condition of the properties and the requirements for their conservation.

MinLaw and MCI also clarified that the government had not issued any requests to Meta, Instagram’s parent company, to geo-block Charles Yeo’s post.

Yeo’s post was blocked for Singapore viewers and Meta had stated it restricted access to the content in the location where it goes against local law after it had conducted a legal and human rights assessment.

As per the POFMA directions, Jom is required to publish correction notices on its website and social media pages to clarify and correct the inaccuracies in its original article.

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