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Another political storm: will Lee Hsien Yang comply with POFMA order?


Alfrescian (Inf)
A big test of political will.

Lee Hsien Yang issued Pofma correction direction for Facebook post on Ridout Road, SPH Media​


Mr Lee Hsien Yang will be required to carry a correction notice on a Facebook post that had 3 untrue statements, according to the Law Ministry. PHOTO: ST FILE

Goh Yan Han
Political Correspondent

July 25, 2023

SINGAPORE - Mr Lee Hsien Yang has been asked to carry a correction notice on a Facebook post he made on Sunday (July 23) which commented on the Ridout Road saga.
Mr Lee, the younger son of first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and the brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, was issued the correction direction under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), Singapore’s fake news law.
The direction to do so was issued by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong. A press release from the Law Ministry said on Tuesday that Mr Lee’s Facebook post had made three untrue statements.
  • That the State had paid for the renovations to No. 26 and 31 Ridout Road because the properties were leased by Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
  • That trees at the two properties were allowed to be felled because the properties were leased by the two ministers.
  • That SPH Media Trust had fraudulently inflated its circulation numbers.
Mr Lee’s Facebook post had said that trust in the People’s Action Party, of which PM Lee leads, “has been shattered”.
He said: “Two ministers have leased state-owned mansions from the agency that one of them controls, felling trees and getting state-sponsored renovations... SPH Media, an entity being given almost a billion dollars of taxpayers monies, has fraudulently inflated its circulation numbers.”
The issue of the Ridout Road rentals was debated in Parliament in July, following a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) investigation and a review by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean.
The CPIB said in its report that it did not find any wrongdoing on the part of the two ministers, while SM Teo’s review found that processes had been followed.

MinLaw laid out several clarifications on Mr Lee’s false statements in its press release on Tuesday.
Firstly, the identity of the tenants had no bearing on the decision on the works to be carried out on the properties, said the ministry.
It said the post omitted important information that the works done were in keeping with the Singapore Land Authority’s (SLA) practice, and were assessed to be necessary in the circumstances. This had been explained by Mr Tong in Parliament on July 3.

MinLaw added that SLA invests a significant amount in maintaining conserved properties, which include No 26 and 31 Ridout Road. SLA has spent similar and even larger amounts on other black-and-white bungalows, consistent with conservation requirements.
It said that most of the costs incurred for the two properties were for works that external consultants had deemed necessary, in light of their condition and to comply with relevant conservation requirements. The remaining costs were incurred as part of usual works done before a tenancy commences to ensure a property is habitable.
Secondly, on the point of trees being felled, MinLaw said the identity of the tenants had no bearing on the felling of the trees at the properties.
All decisions to fell trees with a girth size of more than one metre were made following inspections by independent arborists, and safety issues were identified.
Where approval was required for any trees to be felled, it was obtained from the National Parks Board. The reasons for felling trees at both properties was also explained by Mr Tong in Parliament on July 3, said MinLaw.

Thirdly, Mr Lee’s statement that SPH Media Trust had fraudulently inflated its circulation numbers was also untrue, said MinLaw.
The overstatement of numbers happened when the business was under Singapore Press Holdings, a listed company, before SPH Media Trust was incorporated.
When SPH Media Trust took over the media business, it discovered, reported and investigated the circulation issue, the ministry noted.
The Government’s funding agreement to build up public service media capabilities was signed with SPH Media Trust and not Singapore Press Holdings.
The funding quantum was based on SPH Media Trust’s transformation needs, and not the circulation numbers, said MinLaw.
Mr Lee will be required to publish a correction notice, stating that the post contains false statements, on his Facebook post made on Sunday. The correction notice will have to provide a link to the Government’s Factually website.
He does not have to take down his post, nor make edits to its content.