Tuesday 25 October 2016

Police report to be filed over outright falsehoods on States Times Review: Law Minister K Shanmugam

Shanmugam takes aim at sociopolitical site's article
He plans to file police report over 'outright falsehoods' in article on elected presidency
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 24 Oct 2016

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam has hit out at "outright falsehoods" in an article about the elected presidency on a sociopolitical website and said he intends to make a police report.

The anonymous article posted on the States Times Review website last Friday made allegations with the "potential to create friction among the races", he said at Sri Mariamman Temple last Saturday, on the sidelines of preparations for the annual fire-walking festival.

Titled "Law Minister K Shanmugam: Eurasian Singaporeans are Indians", the article claimed that Mr Shanmugam "told a Eurasian Singaporean representative that Eurasians are considered Indian under the Presidential candidacy law".

This allegedly took place at an Institute of Policy Studies forum on the Elected Presidency last Friday.

The article claimed that Mr Shanmugam said "Indians outnumbered Eurasians 20 to 1. So it makes it difficult for (there to be) an Eurasian president".

He was said to have made the remark "when the President of the Eurasian Association of Singapore, (Mr) Benett Theseira, criticised the definition of Eurasian in the candidacy regulations".

The article, which has been viewed more than 25,000 times, appeared to have been amended when viewed yesterday. It wrote instead that "a Eurasian Singaporean representative complained that Eurasians are considered Indian under the Presidential candidacy law".

In a Facebook post last Saturday night, Mr Shanmugam said he was shocked by the article. "All of this is completely false. During my session which lasted 90 minutes, I said nothing of the sort attributed to me, about Eurasians," he said.

A post on government website Factually said it was "malicious" of the States Times Review to have spread "vicious falsehoods, calculated to sow discord among our different ethnic groups". It added that the Government will review the post and decide whether to take further action against the site.

"At a personal level, I don't need to file a police complaint," Mr Shanmugam said at the temple last Saturday. "The reason I decided that I should take this seriously is because it is a system... It is the integrity that we ought to protect and we shouldn't allow people to throw stones at that and create friction among the races."

He added: "There was no question, no discussion on Eurasians, at least in my session."

While the perpetrator is overseas, said Mr Shanmugam, he has helpers here and a police report serves as a "marker" for conduct.

"We need a clean system where we discuss ideas, where we set out the truth. Otherwise, there is no difference between our society and other societies where all sorts of lies go for public discourse," said the minister.

The Straits Times understands that no police report had been lodged as of last night.

Following Mr Shanmugam's Facebook post and news reports, the States Times Review made other posts claiming the minister has lodged a police report "over criticism". It alleged that Mr Shanmugam was looking for a "scapegoat to cover up his embarrassment".

Elected presidency changes

Survey: Support for reserved elections varies across races
But majority of Singaporeans agree with need to have a minority president from time to time
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 22 Oct 2016

A government survey has found that a majority of Singaporeans agree with the need for a minority president from time to time, but the level of support for a reserved election varies among the different races.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam cited these results at an Institute of Policy Studies forum on the elected presidency (EP) yesterday to show that while Singapore has come a long way in ensuring racial harmony, race is still a factor in elections.

The survey, which government feedback unit Reach conducted last month, showed that 60 per cent of 1,058 Singaporeans polled agreed or strongly agreed with the need to ensure that minorities are periodically elected to the highest office in the land.

But on a question about whether there should be a reserved election for minority candidates if a minority member has not been elected president for five terms, respondents of different races responded differently.

Among Chinese respondents, 28 per cent said they supported such a move. This number was 41 per cent for Malay respondents, and 40 per cent for Indian respondents.

"It's interesting if you say race doesn't matter. You look at the numbers and responses - the charts speak for themselves," Mr Shanmugam told about 200 participants.

He added that the "sharp difference" could become even more apparent in a close race.

During the question-and-answer session, a participant questioned the need for a reserved election, saying that it could lead to tokenism.

She argued that minority candidates have beaten their Chinese opponents in parliamentary elections, citing the Bukit Batok by-election in May, which People's Action Party candidate Murali Pillai had won running against the Singapore Democratic Party's Dr Chee Soon Juan.

Mr Shanmugam, who is also Home Affairs Minister, said it was a false comparison as parliamentary elections and presidential elections were different. He added that a candidate's party was a significant factor in voters' decisions during parliamentary elections.

"Don't go away with the impression that I'm suggesting that race is the be all, end all. (But) do you think it doesn't matter for 5 to 10 per cent of the population?" he said.

Ultimately, he said, the Government has to make a "judgment call" on how much racial issues swing votes and whether it will lead to minorities being shut out for long periods from the presidency.

He added that having a provision to ensure minorities are elected from time to time is "an area the Government believes is the right thing to do, (so) we have to convince people".

A Constitutional Commission set up to review the elected presidency had suggested having reserved elections that kick in for particular racial groups, if people from the group have not been elected president for five terms, or 30 years.

The Government accepted the suggestion in a White Paper issued last month.

This and other proposed changes to the elected presidency will be debated when Parliament sits on Nov 7.

The other proposed changes have to do with the eligibility criteria for presidential candidates, the Council of Presidential Advisers and framework of the president's powers and provisions that entrench and safeguard the presidency.

The Reach survey also found that 64 per cent of respondents thought having elections was the best way to choose a president, compared with 14 per cent who wanted the president to be appointed by the Government, and a fifth who thought it did not matter.

The remainder said they were not sure.


Out of 1,058 Singaporeans polled, this percentage agreed with the need to ensure that minorities are periodically elected to the presidency.


Chinese respondents who agreed there should be a reserved election for minority candidates if a minority member has not been elected president for five terms.


Percentage of Malay respondents who supported such a move.


Percentage of Indian respondents who backed the move.

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