East Asia Forum issued POFMA correction notice over claims on Singapore’s governance

Singapore’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office has issued a correction direction to the Australia-based academic website, East Asia Forum, on Wednesday (12 Sep).

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Ms Indranee Rajah had ordered the directive in response to assertions made in an article titled “A spate of scandals strikes Singapore,” penned by Dr Ying-Kit Chan of the National University of Singapore.

PMO highlighted that the article contained “false statements” concerning the independence of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s methodology in addressing extramarital affairs among parliamentarians.

Originating from the Australian National University, the East Asia Forum’s content is peer-reviewed and undergoes “checks for factual accuracy”, as affirmed on their website.

The PMO’s clarification on Singapore’s government website, “Factually” detailed several points:

  1. The article allegedly claimed Mr Lee “conflated marital infidelity and corruption.” Refuting this, the PMO stated: “This is untrue and Mr Lee did not conflate the issues.” The PMO also pointed out that “Any concurrent mention of both the CPIB investigations and extramarital affairs related only to the close proximity of the timing in which the incidents were made public, and not the substance of these incidents.”
  2. Addressing the PMO’s stance on corruption versus personal misconduct, it was reiterated that the government “took different approaches towards allegations of corruption or other wrongdoing in the discharge of official duties on the one hand, and cases involving misconduct in personal lives on the other hand.”
  3. On the independence of CPIB, the PMO highlighted that the article “conveys that CPIB is not independent in deciding whether to carry out investigations because it reports directly to the Prime Minister alone.” The PMO explained: “CPIB, like all other agencies, has to be accountable to somebody. A state agency cannot operate without any oversight or governance.”
  4. The article is also said to have alluded to a potential cover-up involving former finance minister Richard Hu’s discussion with Mr. Lee and founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew regarding property acquisitions. The PMO clarified, “This matter was openly debated in Parliament in 1996,” and no wrongdoing was found in the subsequent investigation by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
  5. Addressing claims of a cover-up involving Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean’s inquiry into bungalow rentals by ministers, the PMO stated: “CPIB did conduct an investigation and found no evidence of corruption or wrongdoing.”

Closing their statement, the PMO advised, “We advise members of the public not to speculate and/or spread unverified rumours,” emphasizing the article’s “false and misleading statements while omitting key facts on these matters of public interest.”

The East Asia Forum is required to post a correction notice at the top of the article, on their main webpage, and on related Facebook entries. However, as of the time this article was published, no notice has appeared in the required locations.

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