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SINGAPORE — The government has invoked the Protection against Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Act (POMFA) for the first time, as the POFMA Office issued a correction notice to opposition party member Brad Bowyer.
The notice was issued on the instruction of Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and relates to a Facebook post made by Bowyer, a Progress Singapore Party (PSP) member, on 13 November, said the POFMA Office in a statement on Tuesday (26 November).
“The Correction Direction requires Mr Bowyer to carry in full, the correction notice at the top of his Facebook post,” the statement added.
Bowyer’s post was linked to an article on the ZeroHedge blog titled “Owner Of ‘Salt Bae’ Steakhouse Chain Is Scrambling To Find A Partner At A $1 Billion Valuation”. In it, he commented, “Now we see the idiocy that was the Temasek investment in Salt Bae coming home to roost”.
Among other assertions, Bowyer added, “We also saw the recent canning of the Amaravati city project part of the S$4 billion already dumped into Andhra Pradesh by GLCs (government-linked companies) and related parties so India has not been so good an investment choice after all.”
Fact-checked by Factually
Bowyer was directed to place a correction notice at the top of the post, as well as a link to Factually, the government fact-checking website. Noting that the post contains “false statements of fact and misleading statements”, Factually listed corrections and clarifications in response to Bowyer’s post.
For example, it noted that the Salt Bae chain of restaurants is owned by a company called D.ream International BV, which operates 60 restaurants throughout the world via four operating subsidiaries.
“Temasek invested in D.ream International BV, and not in one of D.ream International BV’s shareholders called Doğuş Holding A.Ş. The company that is reportedly in difficulties according to the article cited by Mr Bowyer, is Doğuş Holding A.Ş., and not D.ream International BV,” said the Factually article.
In response to Bowyer’s assertion on the Amaravati city project, Factually also noted, “The Singapore Consortium (comprising Ascendas Singbridge Pte Ltd (now part of CapitaLand Group) and Sembcorp Development Ltd) in the Amaravati project has stated publicly that the costs incurred have been limited to design services prior to commencement of execution works on the ground, amounting to a few million dollars. There are no billions of dollars involved.”
It added that while Bowyer “implies that the Singapore Government controls Temasek’s and GIC’s commercial decisions”, this was not the case. “The Government does not influence, let alone direct, the individual investment decisions made by Temasek and GIC. Which companies they invest in, or divest from, is entirely the responsibility of their respective management teams,” said the article.
In a subsequent post on Monday, Bowyer said, “I have no problem in following that request as I feel it is fair to have both points of view and clarifications and corrections of fact when necessary...
“I am not against being asked to make clarifications or corrections especially if it is in the public interest.”
He added, “In general, I caution all those who comment on our domestic politics and social issues to do so with due care and attention especially if you speak from any place of influence.”
Bowyer stressed that the correction would “in no way impact my resolve or desire to do what I feel I can to improve our social and political discourse and how Singapore is governed and develops both now and in the future”.
The opposition member also shared his views on the so-called fake news law, stating, “While I personally feel POFMA was rushed through and has many opportunities for misuse... we have been assured that the current government will not misuse the act and that future addendum will fix the gaps.”