Singapore ministers order corrections for false statements on Ridout Road saga

Opposition politician Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Facebook user, and online publication Jom instructed to issue corrections under POFMA

The front drive of 26 and 31 Ridout Road.
The front drive of 26 and 31 Ridout Road. (PHOTO: Google Maps/Screenshot)

SINGAPORE — Singapore's Ministry of Law (MinLaw) has instructed opposition politician Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Facebook user Thamil Selvan, and online publication Jom to issue corrections under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).

The corrections are in response to articles and social media posts containing false statements about the rental of Ridout Road colonial-house properties by ministers K. Shanmugam and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

On Sunday (16 July), Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong issued correction orders targeting an article published on 2 July by opposition politician Kenneth Jeyaretnam on his website, The Ricebowl Singapore.

The article "Will SLA issue a statement denying the rumours that they have awarded any contracts to Shanmugam's son's company?" was found to contain false statements.

This correction order also encompass Facebook user Thamil Selvan's post on 1 July, which was likewise determined to contain false statements.

What inaccurate claims were made?

The false claims made in the article and the Facebook post stated that the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) awarded a contract to renovate properties at 26 Ridout Road and/or 31 Ridout Road to home interior and renovation company Livspace. The posts also alleged that the contract was awarded because Livspace's chief executive officer is the son of Home Affairs and Law Minister Shanmugam.

In its statement, MinLaw clarified that SLA did not appoint Livspace or Shanmugam's son to carry out works on the properties, as stated by Tong during the 3 July Parliamentary sitting.

Instead, SLA engaged an external consultant to assess the necessary works, which were then awarded to separate contractors through open tenders.

A probe by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) found no evidence of corruption or criminal wrongdoing in the rental of the Ridout Road properties by Shanmugam and Balakrishnan.

Under POFMA, Jeyaretnam and Thamil Selvan are required to carry a correction notice on their website, Twitter, and Facebook accounts, stating that their posts contain false statements.

The correction notice must also include a link to the government's Factually article, which provides factual information and clarifications on the matter.

MPs engage in lengthy debate over ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan's rental of Ridout Road properties.
MPs engage in lengthy debate over ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan's rental of Ridout Road properties on 3 July. (PHOTO: MCI/YouTubeScreengrab)

Government clarifies false claims on Jom

Tong, together with Minister of Communications and Information Josephine Teo, also issued a correction order to online publication Jom for an article titled "Singapore This Week" published on 7 July.

The article falsely claimed that Senior Minister Teo did not respond to questions concerning the issue of "actual or apparent conflicts of interest and possible breach of the code of conduct for ministers" during his ministerial statement on the Ridout Road investigation.

It also falsely stated that SLA spent over $1 million on renovations for the Ridout Road properties due to the involvement of the ministers.

The joint statement by ministers Tong and Teo clarified that Jom's article omitted important information provided by Senior Minister Teo in Parliament on 3 July. He had "expressly clarified that he meant it was important to observe the spirit as well as the letter of the code".

Furthermore, the statement emphasised that Teo affirmed Shanmugam's recusal from the matter, relieving him of any responsibilities. The statement added, "This meant that he no longer had any duty in the matter. There could thus be no potential or actual conflict of interest."

The statement also clarified that the identity of the tenants had no bearing on the renovation costs incurred by SLA. The amount spent was consistent with SLA's general practice and was deemed necessary due to the condition of the properties and relevant conservation requirements.

Minister Teo also issued a correction direction against Jom for falsely claiming that the government caused Instagram to geo-block a post by opposition figure Charles Yeo.

The joint statement clarified that the government did not issue any directions or requests to Instagram's parent company, Meta, regarding the post.

A check conducted by Yahoo Southeast Asia on Monday (17 July) revealed that the online publication Jom, along with Selvam and Jeyaratnam, have published the necessary correction notices on their respective social media pages and websites.

Correction notices published: Jom, Selvam, and Jeyaratnam acknowledge false statements with links to Factually article.
Correction notices published: Jom, Selvam, and Jeyaratnam acknowledge false statements with links to Factually article. (Screenshot/Ricebowl/Jom/FB/ThamilSelvan)

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