Police reports are lodged against a WP candidate, and Paul Tambyah's statements are POFMA-ed

Not a good day to be an opposition candidate

Hello and welcome to another edition of GE20Watch.

It was an eventful day yesterday, so let’s get down to it.

Police reports lodged against WP’s Raeesah Khan

Two police reports have been lodged against Raeesah Khan, a WP candidate for Sengkang GRC, for her social media comments that allegedly promoted enmity between different groups. In her posts from February 2018 and in May earlier this year, Khan allegedly commented that Singapore jailed minorities ‘mercilessly’, harrassed mosque leaders and let ‘corrupt church leaders who stole SGD50 million walk free’ (referring to the City Harvest Church ruling). She also allegedly commented that Singapore law enforcement authorities discriminated against its citizens and treated ‘rich Chinese or white people’ differently. She is being investigated under Section 298A of the Penal Code, which makes it an offence to promote ‘enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race’.

On Sunday night, WP responded immediately, with Khan apologising for the posts, saying that she did not intend to cause any social division but only wanted to raise awareness about the concerns of minorities. Party chief Pritam Singh said that he was not aware of her posts before, but did not encourage and would be ‘a bit disappointed’ if candidates tried to sanitise their past. He went on to say that they should be ‘upfront and authentic to the public’, and to explain themselves if they made posts or comments which were untoward.

The screenshots of said social media posts were initially dug up by pro-PAP Facebook page Singapore Matters. However, an account soon emerged to claim credit for leaking out the posts:

Said individual was soon CSI-ed by keen netizens and his online profiles have since been bombarded with angry comments. #IStandWithRaeesah soon became the top trend on Twitter, which generally has a pro-WP presence. Statements also soon circulated on Facebook in support of Khan:

For an analysis of this affair in context of racial discourse in Singapore, do check out the ever-excellent Race Tuition Centre (which is sadly not posting anymore).

While we should be careful about what we post on social media, this incident unfortunately highlights the sad state of racial discourse in our country. As Cherian George points out, laws such as Section 298 that criminalise the ‘wounding of racial and religious feelings’ invites people to weaponise such laws. Above, you can see Exhibit A of how it can be weaponised for political means.

Astute observers have also noted the timing of the reports, as the posts were made some time back. Although it would be remiss to hold a party responsible for the behaviour of what may have been perhaps an errant supporter, questions must be asked: who filed the reports? And why now?

Paul’s Postulations POFMA-ed

POFMA correction directions have been issued against CNA, The Online Citizen, New Naratif, and the National University of Singapore Society by MOM and MOH, for featuring statements by SDP chairman Paul Tambyah that were “false”.

Tambyah had said that MOM’s email advisory to employers on the testing of migrant workers was made without the advice of public health professionals. He also said that this advisory stated that employers would lose their work pass privileges if they did send their workers for testing and that MOM actively discouraged the testing of workers. Both ministries clarified that MOM had actually advised not to send workers to hospitals ‘unless it is a medical emergency’ and that employers should send unwell workers to a general practitioner, who would make a proper assessment whether to send the worker to the hospital.

This POFMA clarification comes after Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the multi-ministry task force leading Singapore’s Covid-19 response, hit back at Tambyah, accusing him of making false allegations, and said that doctors and medical experts had requested MOM to put out the advisory.

Lim’s Team

The constituency broadcasts have continued, but the standout broadcast amongst yesterday’s broadcasts (and not exactly for a good reason) is the Peoples Voice team for Jalan Besar GRC. PV chief Lim Tean spoke for the entire duration of the broadcast, which Mothership described as ‘Trumpian, nativist, and highly POFMA-able’.

Lim referenced his party’s slogan ‘Make Singapore Our Home Again’, and bizarrely alluded to the government’s embrace of foreigners as a parent taking care of an ‘alien child’ over their own children. He also referenced a conspiracy theory that Covid-19 may have been leaked out a laboratory, and how if it was, current leaders were not prepared to respond quickly anyway. Somehow, he also wove in a point on high defence spending. He also said that Manpower Minister Josephine Teo was ‘singularly responsible’ for the outbreak of Covid-19 in the foreign workers’ dormitories, blamed her for high inequality as well, and called for voters to use their vote as a ‘referendum’ on Josephine Teo’s leadership.

Is this Peoples Voice or Lim Tean’s voice? And why does the party name not have an apostrophe???

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