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‘We will go back to court’: SDP to contest latest Pofma direction by Manpower Ministry over job figures

‘We will go back to court’: SDP to contest latest Pofma direction by Manpower Ministry over job figures

Source: TODAY
Article Date: 14 Oct 2021
Author: Ng Jun Sen

The SDP was issued with three Pofma correction directions in 2019 for two Facebook posts and an article on its website on jobs in Singapore and the employment of professionals, managers, executives and technicians. 

  • Singapore Democratic Party’s Chee Soon Juan said the party will go back to court to take on the ruling People’s Action Party again
  • He was referring to a Pofma order issued against the party by the Manpower Ministry on Oct 8
  • Earlier that day, the apex court had partially allowed SDP’s appeal on one of the three correction directions and upheld the other Pofma orders
  • Dr Chee said he saw the court’s decision as a partial victory for the SDP

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) said it will appeal against a new correction direction issued by the Manpower Ministry (MOM) under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), following an apex court ruling last week regarding the same allegedly false statement that the party made two years ago.

In response to TODAY’s queries on Wednesday (Oct 13), SDP chairman Paul Tambyah said that the party will be appealing and is “in the process of preparing the supporting documents and collating the data”.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan said the MOM had “quite unbelievably” decided to take out another Pofma action against the party following the court ruling.

“Without going into the details of the matter which I will do at a later point, I can say that the SDP will go back to court and take on the PAP (People’s Action Party) again,” wrote Dr Chee.

The SDP was issued with three Pofma correction directions in 2019 for two Facebook posts and an article on its website on jobs in Singapore and the employment of professionals, managers, executives and technicians. The party was directed to post correction notices accompanying these articles and posts that MOM said contained falsehoods.

The SDP appealed against the orders and took it all the way to the Court of Appeal last September. Along with another Pofma appeal by socio political website The Online Citizen, the two cases became the first time an appeal under the fake news law reached the apex court.

On Oct 8, the five judges who heard the case, including Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, partially allowed SDP’s appeal in one of the three correction directions, while dismissing the other appeals.

In its judgement, the court ruled that it was “untenable” to regard a statement as false just because the minister has identified it to be so. “The minister may, after all, be mistaken. Truth and falsehood are ultimately matters to be determined by a court based on the evidence.”

One of the three correction directions, which concerned an illustration showing declining “local PMET employment”, was partially set aside.

The court ruled that “local” could be interpreted to mean Singapore citizens, excluding permanent residents, whereas MOM’s understood “local” to apply to both citizens and PRs.

On the day of the ruling, MOM issued a new correction direction to SDP. It said SDP’s original statement in December 2019 — that local PMET employment had fallen — was still “completely false” no matter if it included or excluded PRs.

“We hope that the SDP will hereafter stop misleading Singaporeans with false statements,” said MOM in another statement on Oct 9.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers also clarified that the Government has always taken the position that the courts have the power to ultimately decide the facts.

On Wednesday, Dr Chee said he would not go into the details of the latest Pofma action against SDP, adding that he saw the Court of Appeal’s judgement as awarding SDP with a partial victory.

Professor Tambyah said that MOM, in stating that the party’s original statement was still false because employment for citizen PMETs had gone up, used data from 2015 to 2019 to demonstrate its case.

“But nowhere in our post did we restrict the period from 2015 to 2019. In fact, taking the trend in that decade, the trend proves our case. The Government cannot be allowed to impute things that we did not say and then label our statement as false,” said the SDP chairman.

TODAY has sought comment from MOM on SDP's latest statements on the matter.

Copyright 2021 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

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