SDP correction directions: Opposition party files High Court appeal against Manpower Minister

SDP correction directions: Opposition party files High Court appeal against Manpower Minister

SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan and chairman Paul Tambyah speaking at a press conference
SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan and chairman Paul Tambyah speaking at a press conference on Sep 2, 2015. (File photo: Sarah Yang)

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) said on Wednesday (Jan 8) that it has filed a High Court appeal against Manpower Minister Josephine Teo after the party’s application to cancel correction directions was rejected

The opposition party had applied to retract the directions issued by the ministry about statements SDP made on its Facebook page and website regarding employment issues. 

READ: SDP correction directions - Party says it will pursue matter in court

READ: Manpower Minister rejects SDP’s application to retract correction directions, cites insufficient grounds

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) however rejected the application, saying there wasn't "sufficient grounds". 

The case will be heard on Jan 16 at 10am, said the party in a statement on its website on Wednesday. 

"The SDP will not be engaging counsel but will, instead, argue the matter ourselves," it added. 

The party said it had set out its case to Ms Teo in a "detailed submission", which included statistical analyses of MOM's data, explaining why she was wrong to issue the orders. 

"We also indicated that MOM had cited different sets of data as well as accused us of making statement that we did not make in order to support its case," it said.

"Ms Teo arrogantly dismissed our application saying that it 'does not provide sufficient grounds for the cancellation of the CDs' and refused, or was unable, to back up her allegations in her rejection of our submissions." 

The SPD said it was "left with no choice" but to pursue the matter in the High Court. "We look forward to Ms Teo explaining her decision on the witness stand," said the party. 

"ABUSE OF THE LAW" 

In December, MOM instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office to issue correction directions to SDP over two Facebook posts and an article that contained "a misleading graphic and false statement of facts” on employment trends among PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians).

In its statement on Wednesday, the SDP said that another important reason for its High Court appeal was because "Ms Teo's order is an abuse of the law". 

READ: SDP complies with POFMA order but will apply to cancel correction directions

READ: POFMA Code of Practice for online political ads will help citizens make informed choices - Iswaran

"If her POFMA order succeeds, then the last holdout where important national issues are openly and robustly debated on the Internet in Singapore would be irreparably closed," said the party. 

"The employment of ministerial decree to accuse the opposition of stating falsehoods when the statements are in fact true cannot be condoned.

"In a political debate, the application of facts and logical reason to persuade the public must not be sacrificed for the whims and opinions of ministers," SDP added. 

SDP also criticised the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), saying that the PAP should "not be allowed to be the accuser, prosecutor and judge on any political matter". 

"If the ruling party gets away with using POFMA in such a slipshod and partisan manner, then every critic will be at its mercy," it said.

The opposition party went on to say that it would rather focus on the upcoming election campaign. 

"As difficult as it may be, we must stand up for our fellow Singaporeans and fight for what little space we have left in Singapore to uphold our democratic freedoms.

"While the court of public opinion is on our side, we must nevertheless attempt to also succeed in the court of law," added the opposition party. 

In an email to CNA on Wednesday, MOM said it was aware of SDP's appeal. 

Since POFMA came into force in October, correction directions have also been issued to Progress Singapore Party member Brad Bowyer, alternative news site the States Times Review and Singaporean lawyer and opposition figure Lim Tean

Source: CNA/ad(hs)

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