Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam is confirmed to be suing social media giant TikTok through three applications of the Protection against Harassment Act (POHA), as reported by TODAY on Tuesday evening.
Previously, Gutzy noted a person named Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam, who shared the Minister’s name, had initiated proceedings against TikTok and Google under POHA. Gutzy had reached out to Mr. Shanmugam for confirmation of filing applications against the two tech giants, to which he did not respond.
TODAY reports that these applications were filed following TikTok’s failure to assist in identifying three users who allegedly uploaded videos spreading false allegations about Mr Shanmugam.
Copies of three affidavits filed by Mr Shanmugam’s lawyers from WongPartnership, obtained by TODAY, detail these allegations, which he has repeatedly dismissed as “false and baseless.”
The affidavits, filed to support Mr Shanmugam’s application for court orders, state that TikTok refused to provide basic personal information about the three users without a court order.
TikTok’s lawyers from Rajah & Tann, responding to TODAY’s queries, were unable to comment on the matter.
Court documents reveal that on 13 August, a TikTok user “@trusted.selller”, allegedly uploaded a video with two images captioned “GIVE HIM A DEFAMATION SUIT SISTER #MINISTER #SG #VIRAL #EXWIFE,” depicting Mr Shanmugam and his former wife.
Another user, “@tharakhussin,” reportedly uploaded a video on 15 August, displaying an article headline from celebscritic.com, implying an extra-marital affair between Mr Shanmugam and MP Foo Mee Har.
Mr Shanmugam has since initiated separate proceedings against celebcritics.com, with the State Courts declaring the article’s contents false on 15 September.
A third user, “@thaddeusthomas81,” allegedly posted a video on 17 August about the minister, captioned “Clarifications and a look at who is the wife and alleged mistress,” featuring an image of Ms Foo. In his affidavits, Mr Shanmugam denies these allegations.
Mr Shanmugam addressed these false claims on his Facebook account in August, stating that the allegations attributed to his former wife were made by an imposter, confirmed by his ex-wife.
He also declared the affair allegations with an MP as “false and baseless,” referencing an 18 August article by Mothership that detailed apologies from individuals who published similar allegations.
In another post made in August, Mr Shanmugam clarified a past incident concerning an imposter who falsely claimed to be his ex-wife, Jothie Rajah, daughter of Senior Counsel and former Judicial Commissioner of the Supreme Court of Singapore, K.S. Rajah.
“A person pretending to be my ex-wife Jothie, put up a nasty, false post, many years ago,” he shared. Mr. Shanmugam confirmed that Jothie had disavowed any connection to the post, attributing it to the imposter.
While he had initially considered filing a police report when the issue first emerged, he chose not to. With the post resurfacing, he now plans to proceed with the police report.
Mr Shanmugam and Jothie Rajah were previously married for 15 years, but their marriage ended due to “mutual incompatibility”.
Speculations and allegations, such as the ones the Minister recently addressed, have been cited by some as potential reasons for their separation, although these claims remain unsubstantiated.
TikTok’s Refusal to Provide User Information
Following the video discoveries, Mr Shanmugam’s lawyers requested TikTok to disable access and provide basic subscriber information of the users involved.
TikTok, citing the absence of a court order or legal requirement, refused to disclose the information. Despite this, Mr Shanmugam’s lawyers attempted to contact two users via Facebook for video removal and apologies but received no response.
Unable to ascertain the identities or addresses of the three TikTok users, Mr Shanmugam could not commence direct legal proceedings. His affidavits argue that obtaining documents and information from TikTok is necessary and proportionate for identifying the users.
The TODAY report did not mention the earlier POHA application filed against Google, leaving its current status unclear and there has been no updated status on that application on the court hearing list.
Public Scrutiny and Legal Disputes
In addition to the POHA applications, Mr Shanmugam is facing public scrutiny over renting 26 Ridout Road, a substantial black-and-white bungalow spanning 23,164 sqm (249,294 sq ft), for S$26,500 from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). Notably, the SLA is a statutory board under his purview as the Minister for Law.
Statements from Minister Shanmugam and Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan regarding this issue were presented during a parliamentary session in July.
Members of the People’s Action Party (PAP) government, including Cabinet members, have denied any misconduct. They pointed to reviews conducted by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), which exonerated both ministers.
Despite these clarifications, concerns about a potential conflict of interest remain. The act of negotiating with an agency within one’s own ministry, even after recusal, can lead to perceptions of impropriety, seemingly contradicting the Ministers’ Code of Conduct established in 1954.
The July parliamentary session highlighted these concerns, with both opposition members and the public calling for more transparent answers. However, the responses given were deemed largely unsatisfactory.
Moreover, Mr Shanmugam and Dr Balakrishnan are entangled in a legal dispute with Mr Lee Hsien Yang (LHY), the son of the late Lee Kuan Yew. This dispute centres on a Facebook post by LHY that critiques the declining trust in the PAP government and mentions the two ministers’ leases of state-owned properties at Ridout Road.
The Singapore court has recently ruled in favour of the two ministers in this case against LHY. As a result, LHY is obligated to pay damages, the amount of which is yet to be determined. Additionally, an injunction has been issued preventing LHY from reposting the allegedly defamatory statement.
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