Thursday, 21 September 2023

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POFMA issues correction over false claims of information withholding by PM Lee and DPM Wong on Iswaran’s CPIB arrest

SINGAPORE — In an ongoing corruption probe concerning Transport Minister S Iswaran, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has clarified comments made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong. Both officials have remained consistent with the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau’s (CPIB) initial statement regarding the investigation, citing that it pertains to “operational matters.”

The clarification was part of a correction direction issued under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) to the blog Political Sophistry, which focuses on Singapore politics. The direction on Thursday (20 Jul) came following instructions from Minister in the PMO, Ms Indranee Rajah.

Political Sophistry published an article on 16 July titled “Upfront and transparent? A timeline of the CPIB investigation into Transport Minister Iswaran,” in which the POFMA direction stated that it suggested that DPM Wong had “deliberately withheld information” to “conceal the truth.” PMO refuted these claims as false in their press release.

The POFMA statement from the PMO clarified that PM Lee’s statement and DPM Wong’s media interview conducted on 12 July adhered to the CPIB’s initial announcement. The CPIB had released a statement on 12 July noting that Mr Iswaran was assisting the bureau with an investigation.

Two days after the initial announcement, CPIB issued an update in response to media inquiries, confirming that Mr Iswaran and property tycoon Ong Beng Seng were both arrested on 11 July and subsequently released on bail.

The POFMA statement clarified that PM Lee and DPM Wong’s comments were consistent with CPIB’s update, debunking allegations that they had tried to hide Mr Iswaran’s arrest due to political embarrassment or intentionally withholding information.

The PMO emphasized that the CPIB has the authority to make operational decisions, including arrests related to their investigations and public announcements related to the same.

Political Sophistry, which began publishing in February 2023, has been directed to issue a correction at the top of the contentious article and its homepage, ensuring readers can access the correct information. The blog has since posted a correction notice.

In its brief existence, the blog has covered several topics of political importance, including the Ridout Road debate, concerning state property rental by senior ministers, and the government’s management of parliamentary speaker Tan Chuan-Jin and lawmaker Cheng Li Hui’s resignations.

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