Friday, 3 June 2016

Elections Department, police explain Cooling-Off Day probes

Despite the rules being publicised, there were deliberate and serious breaches, says joint statement
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 2 Jun 2016

The reason the Elections Department (ELD) and the police took action against various persons and websites for their online posts on Cooling-Off Day for the Bukit Batok by-election was set out in a joint statement last night.

It came amid criticism from netizens about the way the police are reportedly conducting the investigations, and a call from the Workers' Party (WP) for the police to be consistent in their probes.

The statement noted that the rules for Cooling-Off Day, introduced in 2011, have been breached in the various elections.

The approach taken by the ELD has been to give warnings. In some cases, the breaches were found to be unintentional, it added.

However, "we observed what appeared to be deliberate and serious breaches of the rules... during the Bukit Batok by-election", it said.

This despite the ELD making public past breaches as well as publicising the rules several times, including issuing an advisory before Cooling-Off Day and a subsequent reminder on Cooling-Off Day itself against activities that are deemed election advertising, said the joint statement.

In the Bukit Batok by-election, various persons and sites published online posts in contravention of the rules. It said The Independent Singapore, a socio-political website, continued to post such material even after receiving a specific reminder from the Assistant Returning Officer not to do so.

"Given the blatant disregard of the (rules) in the Bukit Batok by-election, the Assistant Returning Officer decided to make police reports so that the police could investigate."

It added: "As part of the investigations, the police need to examine for evidentiary purposes electronic devices used to publish the online postings. As such, these devices had to be seized."

When the investigations are completed, the police will make their recommendations to the Attorney-General's Chambers, said the statement.

Besides The Independent Singapore, blogger Roy Ngerng and former political detainee Teo Soh Lung are being investigated as both made Cooling-Off Day posts in support of Singapore Democratic Party candidate Chee Soon Juan.

Mr Ngerng and Ms Teo said on social media they were interrogated for long hours by the police on Tuesday and their homes were also "raided". They added that their phones and computers were confiscated.

The WP urged the authorities to ensure consistency and proportionality are applied to all investigations. It also said others who were reported for similar violations in the past "were not known to have faced the same lengthy interviews, and searches and seizures of personal equipment".

Asked to elaborate, it told The Straits Times they include two People's Action Party (PAP) candidates in previous general elections. They were Dr Vivian Balakrishnan last year and Ms Tin Pei Ling in 2011. Both were reminded by the ELD of the election rule, and the posts were removed the same day.

In a Facebook post last night, PAP MP Tan Wu Meng referred to the WP statement and said WP central executive council member and Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera has been linked to The Independent Singapore, and "this was not declared in WP's statement".

"Given this, WP should be aware that it could be seen as having an interest in the outcome of the investigation, and that every effort should be made by WP to avoid the impression that WP is trying to interfere with the investigation," he said.

The Independent Singapore lists Mr Perera as a member of its advisory board. These advisers are not involved in operating the website.











Workers' Party Leon Perera 'not involved in managing site under police probe'
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 3 Jun 2016

Workers' Party (WP) Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera said he is not involved in the management and operations of socio-political site The Independent Singapore (TISG), which is being investigated for violations of election advertising rules.

Mr Perera also said yesterday that he is not a member of the website's board of directors.

He is, however, a minority shareholder whose role, he said, is limited to "providing occasional advice on long-term business strategy, not on editorial decisions or content".

His statement, which he posted on his Facebook page, comes a day after People's Action Party MP Tan Wu Meng made a comment about Mr Perera's links to TISG.

Dr Tan, an MP for Jurong GRC, made the point in a Facebook post, when remarking on the WP's statement about the police probe into online posts on May 6 and May 7, Cooling-Off Day and Polling Day for the Bukit Batok by-election.


The WP had said it was concerned about the way investigations were reportedly conducted, and urged the authorities to ensure consistency and proportionality in probes.

Dr Tan, who said the law should be allowed to run its course, said that given Mr Perera's links to TISG, the WP "could be seen as having an interest in the outcome of the investigation". He added that the party should make every effort "to avoid the impression that it is trying to interfere with the investigation".

Mr Perera, in his response, said his involvement in the website was "a matter of public record" and that he had declared it in a previous interview with the news site Mothership.

He is one of six shareholders of Protegesoft company, which owns TISG. He owns two million of the company's 8.51 million shares, according to official records. He is also a member of TISG's advisory board.

Blogger Roy Ngerng and former political detainee Teo Soh Lung are also being investigated for online posts made on May 6 in contravention of election advertising rules.

The duo have said they were interrogated for long hours by the police on Tuesday and that their homes were "raided". They added that their phones and computers were confiscated.

A group of 141 activists and members of the public said yesterday in a statement that they were "gravely concerned" by the seizure of the duo's belongings without a warrant, and the archiving of their personal data. These actions are "completely disproportionate to any harm alleged to have been caused by the actions of Mr Ngerng and Ms Teo", the statement said.








* WP's Leon Perera steps down as adviser of website under police probe, divests shares in holding company that owns site
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, 9 Jun 2016

Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera of the Workers' Party (WP) said he is no longer an adviser of sociopolitical site The Independent Singapore (TISG), which is being investigated for violating election advertising rules.

He is also in the process of divesting his shareholding in the company that owns and operates the website, he added.

His announcement, posted on his Facebook page yesterday, follows a clarification he made last Thursday about his links with TISG.

Mr Perera had said he was a minority shareholder of the company that owns the website and sat on TISG's advisory board, but was not involved in its management and operations.


On his latest move, he said: "I have decided to take this additional step to ensure that any perceived link to TISG does not distract public attention when policy positions are taken by the WP, particularly on issues related to media regulation."

He added that the move was also necessary as he had been appointed deputy chair of WP's media team.

His statements follow a comment People's Action Party MP Tan Wu Meng made last week about his links to TISG.

Dr Tan, an MP for Jurong GRC, made the point when remarking on the WP's statement about the police probe into online posts made on Cooling-Off Day and Polling Day for the May 7 Bukit Batok by-election.

TISG and two people are being investigated for flouting the rules.

The WP had issued a statement last week, saying it was concerned about the way investigations were reportedly conducted after the two people said online the police had questioned them for long hours, raided their homes and seized their phones and computers.

Dr Tan said given Mr Perera's links to TISG, the WP should make every effort "to avoid the impression that it is trying to interfere with the investigation".

Mr Perera is one of six shareholders of Protegesoft company, which owns the website.

He holds two million of the company's 8.51 million shares, according to official records.

Mr Perera said yesterday he is in the process of divesting his shares to the company's other shareholders.

It should be completed "in the next month or so", he added.

The shareholders are TISG editor and publisher Kumaran Pillai, TISG co-founder and veteran journalist P.N. Balji, publisher of Epigram Books Edmund Wee, lawyer Alfred Dodwell and Ms Sheeba Balakrishnan.








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