The Secretary General of the Reform Party has stated that the Singaporean Government’s decision to designate his online platforms as Declared Online Locations (DOLs) under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) constitutes defamation by the Singapore Government.
He views this as an attempt to silence his voice rather than addressing the various pertinent questions he has raised over the years.
The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), in justifying its issuance of the declarations, described Mr Jeyaretnam of having a history of disseminating false information on these platforms.
These declarations, which took effect on 12 December, require his online platforms to display a notice indicating their status as DOLs. This warns visitors of the alleged history of communicating falsehoods for a period of two years.
The affected online locations include Mr Jeyaretnam’s website, The Ricebowl Singapore (TRS), and his accounts on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and ‘X’ (formerly known as Twitter).
Under POFMA, an online platform can be declared a DOL if it disseminates three or more different false statements of fact that have been subject to POFMA directions within a six-month period.
The act prohibits operators of these DOLs from deriving financial or any other material benefit from them. Violations can result in severe penalties, including fines of up to S$40,000 for individuals and up to S$500,000 for companies.
Additionally, service providers, such as digital advertising agencies, are mandated to ensure that their paid content is not available on these DOLs in Singapore, or they may be subjected to heavy fines.
As part of the POFMA directions, Mr Jeyaratnam must pin the declaration notices at the top of the affected online locations, even if he intends to appeal against the orders.
In a Facebook post made on 14 December, Mr Jeyaretnam commented in the discussion, “Needless to say, I do not agree with this.”
He further wrote, “Whatever the Government said to justify POFMA is false. This is an unjust and repressive law designed to protect the Government from having to provide accountability and transparency and to withhold basic information that should be freely available to citizens in a democracy. I have been penalized because I have come closer to the truth than anyone else, including calculating the hypothetical level of reserves and questioning why more of this enormous sum cannot be spent on investment in Singaporeans.”
He highlighted various questions he posed in areas such as the Budget, the questionable ways Net Investment Returns Contributions are utilized, the HDB “subsidies” that divert money into the reserves, and alleged discrepancies amounting to S$7 or S$8 billion between the Ministry of Health’s budget and the actual subsidies received by Singaporeans and paid to MOH Holdings by the Government.
Mr Jeyaretnam also stated that he has repeatedly asked the Government to reveal the salary of the Prime Minister’s wife as CEO of Temasek and her current earnings as head of the charity. He noted that the Government continues to rebuff these questions, responding with the assertion that Temasek is a private company and, in his opinion, not accountable to the people of Singapore.
He added, “Instead of answering my points, the Government chooses to defame me and attempt to ensure that my voice can no longer be heard. The fact that the ban extends to after the last possible date for the next election shows how desperate LHL [Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong] and his Ministers are to keep me out of Parliament by any means possible.”
Under the POFMA declaration, apart from being unable to gain financial benefits from operating the online locations, social media platforms such as Facebook will restrict the redirection of Singapore users from posts to the URLs of these online locations, citing POFMA requirements.
This means reduced reach from those in Singapore, as people will have to manually insert the URL into their browsers to view the page instead of simply clicking on it.
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