SDP applies to cancel 3 correction orders issued by Manpower Ministry under POFMA

SDP chief Chee Soon Juan (left) and Minister of Manpower and Second Minister of Home Affairs Josephine Teo. (PHOTOS: Yahoo News Singapore, Parliament screengrab)

SINGAPORE — An opposition party which was accused by the Singapore government of publishing “specific falsehoods” on Friday (3 January) said it has submitted an application to cancel correction directives issued under a controversial anti-fake news law.

In a short media statement, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) said that it submitted the application at about 2.50pm to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to cancel three such directives issued by the ministry on 14 December.

The directives were issued for two Facebook posts and an online article by the party titled, “SDP Population Policy: Hire S’poreans First, Retrench S’poreans last”, in accordance with the Protection against Online Falsehoods and Manipulations (POFMA) law.

The law had been invoked to “place the facts alongside the falsehoods”, according to a same-day statement issued by the POFMA office.

The statement contained detailed rebuttals to the SDP’s assertions that were deemed false by the MOM, including that of plunging local PMET (professionals, managers, executives, and technicians) employment and a rising trend of local PMET retrenchments.

“These false and misleading statements by the SDP have a singular objective – to stoke fear and anxiety among local PMETs. It is important to set the facts straight so that Singaporeans are not misled,” it added.

The SDP complied with the request to add a correction note to each of the Facebook posts and the article.

In response to the ministry’s claims, the SDP on Thursday rebutted the MOM’s claims and called the directives “an abuse of POFMA”.

In the SDP’s statement, the party called for Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo to retract the directives and issue an “immediate, unambiguous and public apology” over the matter.

“Clearly, the MOM has used the law for political-partisan purposes to stymie legitimate criticism of the (ruling party People Action Party’s) foreign PMET policy that has been and continues to be unfair to Singaporeans,” added the SDP.

“That the general election is not far away makes our case even more salient.”

In response to media queries, an MOM spokesperson said the ministry has received the application and is assessing it.

The incident is one of four times the law has been invoked since it was enacted in October last year.

The first was on 25 November, when the POFMA office issued a correction notice to opposition party Progress Singapore Party’s member Brad Bowyer, regarding his Facebook post on investments by Temasek Holdings.

The second came three days later when a correction notice was issued against sociopolitical website States Times Review over a Facebook post that falsely claimed several individuals have been arrested over a recent post about Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam.

But Alex Tan – who runs the site and is based overseas – refused, saying he is an Australian citizen and would not comply with requests from a "foreign government".

Social media giant Facebook was then ordered by the POFMA office to put up a correction notice at the bottom of the States Times Review’s social media post.

On 16 December, People’s Voice Party chief and opposition politician Lim Tean was issued a correction order by the Ministry of Education for several Facebook posts covering the issue of scholarships for foreign students.

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