SINGAPORE: The opposition Workers’ Party’s Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leon Perera on Monday (Jan 8) apologised for what he called “incorrect recollections” of claims made last year that broadcaster Mediacorp had edited Parliament footage.
Last week, Leader of the House Grace Fu, who is also Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, called on Mr Perera to apologise at the Jan 8 sitting for “misrepresenting facts” and “misleading” Parliament.
She asked that he withdraw “false allegations” made in Parliament in November 2017, when Mr Perera said Mediacorp had edited and removed parts of a video of a parliamentary exchange during the Presidential Elections debate earlier in the year. He had added that the national broadcaster “made rectification and put up a different clip” only after he contacted them.
Mr Perera had emailed Mediacorp on Feb 20 last year to ask why a certain portion of the said video was not available online. Mediacorp replied on the same day, explaining a technical glitch had affected the recording, and the issue had been fixed on Feb 18, two days before his email. On Feb 21, Mr Perera replied to Mediacorp accepting this explanation.
In a personal statement to the House on Monday, Mr Perera said: “I would now like to definitively withdraw my earlier statements to the effect that the video had been edited with certain bits removed and that the video had been edited and only corrected after my intervention.
“However, I did not deliberately misrepresent the facts of that incident to this House. I did not plan to raise this during the supplementary questions. I did so off the cuff and only in response to a request to enumerate any incidence of editing that I knew of.
“As it turned out, my memory of the incident was inaccurate.”
Mr Perera added: “I did acknowledge my memory might well be imperfect as I prefaced it with the quote ‘if my memory serves me well’.
“I stated explicitly, twice on that day, that the incident had been resolved amicably and did not accuse Mediacorp of partisan editing, which makes the matter of when the clip was corrected immaterial.
“I’d also like to reiterate that the main thrust of my (questions) had been the nature and ownership of parliamentary video footage, which was clarified, and whether and how videos are edited, and why livestreaming of Parliament is not provided.
“I apologise to the House for any mistaken impression created by my failure of memory,” he concluded. “I agree that parliamentary privilege is a privilege that should never be taken lightly. However, I did not deliberately misrepresent facts or deliberately mislead the House for whatever reason.”
"A TIMELY REMINDER”
In response to Mr Perera, Ms Fu said: “Notwithstanding his intention - whether deliberately misleading the House or otherwise - does he agree he has indeed made wrong allegations against Mediacorp?”
Said Mr Perera: “I certainly agree that my recollections were imperfect. It had not been my intention to allege that Mediacorp had undertaken partisan editing of the clip. Having said that I think the statements I made contain inaccuracies and I have withdrawn them and I acknowledge that.”
Said Ms Fu: “And would he agree that the allegations which were untrue have indeed misled the House?"
“I do agree the statements were inaccurate and therefore misled the House,” Mr Perera replied. “But it was not my intention to make an allegation against Mediacorp of having done partisan editing to the clip."
“As I said earlier, putting aside intention, the fact is that the member has indeed made untrue allegations,” said Ms Fu. “I thank him for acknowledging his misleading statement and also acknowledge his apology to Parliament.
“I’d like to stress that MPs are given parliamentary privilege to speak freely and surface different views but this must not be misused to misrepresent facts or mislead Parliament,” she continued.
“I’m glad Mr Perera has clarified his statement by withdrawing his false allegations against Mediacorp and apologising to Parliament.
“Mr Perera has indeed acknowledge he has made a mistake in recollecting his facts. I will not read too much into his intentions … but statements which are wrong and made in this House deserve to be retracted if indeed untrue so the members are able to benefit from discussion and also to restore trust on each other.
“In this way we are able to have useful and effective discussions in this House, because we believe what we say here, we have a serious basis for them and we will not make any statements unless we are very scrupulous in the facts backing them," Ms Fu said.
“So I hope this serves as a timely reminder for all members of the high standards of integrity and honesty we expect in this House.”