SINGAPORE: Dr Chan Ying-Kit (陈英杰), the author of an article on the Australia-based academic website East Asia Forum, has reportedly issued an apology through Singapore’s media TODAY.
Earlier on 18 August, Dr Chan who holds the position of assistant professor at the Department of Chinese Studies, National University of Singapore had his article titled “A Spate of Scandals Strikes Singapore” published on the website.
On 13 September, Singapore’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) issued a correction directive to the East Asia Forum under the instruction of Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
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.
East Asia Forum faces access blocking for non-compliance with Singapore’s POFMA correction direction
Following a breach of the Correction Direction issued on 13 September regarding misinformation in the article, the Minister for Communications and Information on 16 September directed the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to execute Access Blocking Orders against East Asia Forum.
The Correction Direction served to the East Asia Forum demanded the presentation of correct information alongside the alleged falsehoods, enabling Singaporeans to discern the truth by comparing both versions.
Contrary to this directive, East Asia Forum positioned the Government’s response within the comments section at the end of the article.
This arrangement did not comply with the stipulated positioning of the Correction Notices at the article’s beginning and the website’s main page.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has stated that if East Asia Forum later adheres to the Correction Direction’s full requirements, the Access Blocking Orders will be rescinded.
Article retracted from the website at author’s request
According to the website, the article has since been retracted at the request of the author as of 18 September.
In response to TODAY’s inquiries on the night of Monday (Sept 18) night, Dr. Chan released a statement, expressing his “sincere and unreserved apologies” for the errors, omissions, and false statements made in his article, which was written independently without the knowledge of NUS.
“I am remorseful and deeply sorry to the prime minister, CPIB (Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau), NUS, and all the persons whom I have named for my actions and the distress my article has caused.”
Regarding the aspects of his article related to the CPIB, Dr Chan admitted that he had “failed to consider the fact that the Government approaches allegations of corruption and misconduct in personal lives differently, and that the PM has indeed not conflated the issues of corruption and marital infidelity”.
“I have also neglected to mention the safeguards that are indeed in place to ensure that the CPIB can independently conduct and decide on investigations.”
Regarding his comments on a controversial 1990s case involving the purchase of properties by the late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and then-Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, where they were given unsolicited discounts by Hotel Properties Limited, Dr Chan admitted overlooking open parliamentary debates that had disclosed the full facts of the episode.
He also noted that both the CPIB and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean were responsible for investigating the Ridout Road case, which had been openly debated in Parliament.
“My neglect and oversight of the facts have resulted in a flawed and biased article, which lacked academic rigour and conveyed false and misleading information to its readers.
“I will exercise greater prudence in my scholarship and hereby undertake that I will not contribute to speculations and unverified rumours.”
In conclusion, Dr. Chan expressed his gratitude to the PMO for the corrections and stated, “I am truly sorry and have retracted the article from East Asia Forum.”
It is unknown if the retraction of the article would result in the unblocking of the website.
PMO’s clarification on “Factually” regarding the article
In a detailed clarification on the Singaporean government’s website, “Factually,” the PMO addressed several points from the article, including claims about PM Lee, the independence of CPIB, and potential cover-ups involving property acquisitions and bungalow rentals by ministers.
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.”
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