Singapore’s government websites, “Fabrications About the PAP” and “Independent Singapore”, are both let off with only a warning after a breach on the election advertising rule. Managed by a former Malaysian new citizen Jason Chua Chin Seng, “Fabrications About the PAP” is a Facebook page set up by the government to defame government critics and post news stories supporting the government. “Independent Singapore” is a news blog, by Masilamani Pillai Kumaran, to smear the leading opposition party Workers’ Party, while publishing half-truths on Singapore current affairs news in a bid to smear anti-government critics as disruptive noises. The two were issued a warning by the police and warned not to repeat the offense.
In a press release yesterday (Feb 16), the police said the parties involved had published online articles in breach of the prohibition of election advertising on Cooling-Off Day and Polling Day during the by-election. Under the undemocratic election law, only the printed mainstream media are allow to post political news on Cooling Off day and Polling day. No Singapore-based online websites are allowed to post any news on the two days just so the ruling party can get an advantage during the poll. The rules were set by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his ruling party government.
On Cooling-off Day (6 May 2016), the Independent Singapore published two articles, titled “5 highlights of DPM’s speech — Tharman wants to debate with Chee, but not in Parliament” and “Workers’ Party and the Bukit Batok by-election — What the WP members said”. The latter article is to smear the leading opposition Workers’ Party (WP) and sow discord between the election candidate SDP’s Chee Soon Juan and WP. On Polling Day (7 May 2016), the government-backed website ran a third article titled “Tan Cheng Bock denies involvement in posting by irrational group of PAP fans”, in an attempt to stir up sentiments of Tan Cheng Bock’s supporters.
For the Fabrications About the PAP page, 47-year-old Jason Chua Chin Seng published two posts canvassing for votes for the ruling party PAP candidate Murali Pillai. The former software engineer was hired by the Singapore government to manage the Facebook page full time on an undisclosed lucrative remuneration.
The police wrote in their press release:
“The Cooling-Off Day breaches detected during the 2016 Bukit Batok by-election go against the spirit of the election rule. Left unchecked, such breaches can undermine public trust in Singapore’s electoral process.”
Although the two government-backed sites faced a maximum penalty of S$1,000 fine or/and a jail term of 12 months, they were only let off with a warning.