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POFMA correction notices issued for social media posts on claims of investigation into opposition leader Pritam Singh’s alleged lies

SINGAPORE –  False claims circulating on social media stating that a Committee of Privileges was assembled to investigate the alleged non-disclosure of lies by opposition leader Pritam Singh, have been refuted by the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) office.

The correction direction was made at the instruction of Indranee Rajah, the minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Leader of the House in Parliament.

The alleged misleading assertions revolve around the case involving former Workers’ Party member of Parliament for Sengkang GRC, Raeesah Khan.

Leader of the House and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Indranee Rajah, has requested corrections to a Facebook post made on Wednesday by Andrew Loh, co-founder of The Online Citizen.

The press statement by the POFMA office on Friday (21 Jul) claims that a Facebook post by Mr Loh on 18 July inaccurately called for the Committee of Privileges to probe into Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s supposed non-disclosure about an affair between former Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin and an MP, and his alleged concealment of this information while allowing Mr Tan to retain his position.

The POFMA office clarified that Mr Singh was not the subject of any investigation by the Committee of Privileges, and his actions were not referenced in any part of the complaint made by Ms Indranee against Ms Khan.

Ms Khan had been accused of speaking untruths in Parliament and failing to substantiate a claim made on 3 August 2021.

Mr Singh, who is the Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party, did appear before the committee as a witness.

In its report presented to Parliament on 10 February 2022, the committee found that Mr Singh had concealed the fact that he knew about Ms Khan’s dishonesty for three months.

Additionally, Mr Singh was also found to have been untruthful before the committee.

Consequently, the Parliament agreed on 15 February 2022, to refer Mr Singh’s dishonest conduct to the public prosecutor, following the committee’s recommendations.

The direction requests a correction notice to be placed on top of Mr Loh’s post, clarifying that it contains false information, and providing a link to the government’s clarification.

TikTok user “jansenng1,” who had reproduced Mr Loh’s Facebook post, will also be required to add a similar correction notice to their post.

Mr Loh had since complied with the POFMA’s correction direction, while the TikTok user “jansenng1” has yet to publish the correction notice as of Friday (21 Jul) 4.45pm.

Mr Loh was commenting on lawyer Yeoh Lian Chuan’s Facebook post on Wednesday.

In the post, Mr Yeoh pointed out that PM Lee had given Speaker Tan and Ms Cheng Li Hui an extended 2-3 year timeframe to address an issue that PM Lee himself considered to be morally and ethically wrong.

This raises the question of the PAP’s moral standing to complain about the time Leader of Opposition Pritam Singh allowed Ms Raeesah Khan to correct her mistake, especially considering the painful and distressing circumstances that Ms Khan shared with Mr Singh and other WP leaders.

Lawyer Yeoh Lian Chuan expresses solidarity with Mr Loh

In a recent post, the lawyer expresses solidarity with Mr Loh and criticizes the PAP government’s actions.

The lawyer points out that the government seems to be frequently misusing the POFMA legislation, and today’s instance marks the fourth invocation in a week, none of which, in the lawyer’s personal opinion, were justified.

He said while Ms Indranee Rajah technically correct that the complaint she made was in respect of the conduct of Ms Khan, however, Mr Yeoh suggests that Singaporeans can form their own judgment on whether the Committee of Privileges (COP), led by former speaker Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, overly focused on the actions of the WP leaders instead of solely addressing Ms Khan’s conduct, as originally intended.

The lawyer acknowledges the need for caution when commenting on parliamentary proceedings due to the wide terms of Section 31 of the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities, and Powers) Act 1962.

Nevertheless, the lawyer provides personal opinions about their lack of confidence in the COP’s work, citing several concerns:

  • that more focus was placed on cross-examining leaders of the WP than on Ms Khan;
  • what appeared to me to be an overly light-touch in interrogating Ms Khan’s testimony;
  • an overly light-touch approach to investigating how LO Pritam Singh’s initial anger with Ms Khan could possibly suddenly have become an instruction to take things to the grave – with the COP failing (in my view) to develop a compelling case-theory for this crucial event; and
  • the analysis and conclusions of the COP regading the direct interaction between LO Pritam Singh and Ms Khan on 29 November.

“Personally, if I were an MP, I would not have accepted the findings of the COP, with the greatest of respect to the honourable members of the committee, ” he said.

The Minister in the PMO issued another POFMA correction direction to the blog Political Sophistry on Thursday

Just yesterday (20 Jul), Ms Indranee had issued a POFMA correction direction to the blog Political Sophistry for an article titled “Upfront and transparent? A timeline of the CPIB investigation into Transport Minister Iswaran.”

The piece allegedly falsely implied that DPM Wong had intentionally withheld information to hide the truth. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) denied these allegations as unfounded in a press release.

In a continuing corruption probe involving Transport Minister S Iswaran, the PMO clarified comments made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong.

Both officials reiterated their consistency with the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau’s (CPIB) initial statement about the investigation, which pertains to “operational matters.”

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