The Online Citizen's video on allegations of police bullying elderly woman is 'despicable': Shanmugam
SINGAPORE: A video by socio-political site The Online Citizen's (TOC) alleging inaccuracies in a police statement addressing claims of police bullying is "despicable", said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Tuesday (May 25).
Mr Shanmugam's comments came as the police took the unusual step of releasing body-worn camera footage of the incident to verify their account of alleged bullying of an elderly woman who was not wearing a mask.
"So TOC, you go and interview her, this old lady, try and get her to say things," Mr Shanmugam said.
"I would say this is despicable, and how low people will stoop. Unethical, cynical. This whole exercise by TOC is quite malicious to attack the police."
The minister said authorities were still considering if action would be taken against TOC.
Social media posts have alleged that four police officers had "clustered an elderly auntie that took off her mask because she was feeling breathless" and had continued to "tell her off" even though the elderly woman had put her mask on.
The police clarified last Wednesday that these allegations were untrue, adding that officers responded to an incident on May 17 involving an 85-year-old woman who appeared to be lost.
The officers helped the woman, who did not have a mask on, to find her way home, said the police.
"As the incident took place during dinner time, our officers were concerned that the elderly woman might be hungry and bought food for her as well," the police said then.
The Ministry of Home Affairs said last Friday that the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office had been instructed to issue correction directions to several parties, including an Instagram user, Singapore Uncensored and The Online Citizen Asia over falsehoods alleging police bullying in the incident.
READ: POFMA Office instructed to issue correction directions to several parties over posts alleging police bullying
On Tuesday, TOC published a YouTube video featuring an interview with the elderly woman, who claimed the police did not buy her food and that the police had "chased me back".
The TOC video, which contained snippets of the original incident, also urged the police to release body-worn camera footage of the incident.
"I've asked police to release the clips from their body-worn camera, and you can see it, it's clear. And once you see it, there can be no argument," Mr Shanmugam said.
"The body-worn camera shows that the police officer was helping the lady. He bought food for the lady, passed it on to her, and the clip also shows exactly what was said by the police officer."
The police said in a statement on Tuesday that it is not common practice for body-worn camera footage to be released as the information is confidential, but it decided to release snippets of it after discussions with a family member.
The footage "clearly" shows that the officer was advising the elderly woman's domestic helper to remind her to put on a mask, police said, and that the officer was not "taunting or reprimanding" the elderly woman.
Mr Shanmugam said that the elderly woman's daughter has confirmed that her mother has dementia.
"(The elderly woman's daughter) told the police she's upset that the old lady has been taken advantage of by TOC to spin a story, because TOC had put a video of the lady saying, various things," Mr Shanmugam continued.
"People who have dealt with people who have dementia will know that you can sometimes get them to say many things they will not remember what they had half an hour earlier."
Mr Shanmugam said TOC's actions were "quite malicious to attack the police".
"TOC has done this to try and cast doubt on the police, to damage the trust that people have in the police, and is really a disservice to the thousands of police officers who have been fighting in the frontlines," he said.
The minister said it is a "regular" occurrence that TOC attacks the Government with its "team of Malaysian writers".
"But I would say, keep your malice and venom to politics. They can deal with it. Don't bring that toxicity to attack police officers, spare them. They are just doing their job," he added.
"As to whether any further action is to be taken, that's a matter to be considered. It's premature for me to comment."
The police said its resources can be better used to fight crime and help the public rather than address "malicious and baseless" allegations.
"In fact, just this morning, police officers responded to another call about the elderly woman and rendered assistance to her again," police added.
Responding to a request by CNA for comment, TOC editor Terry Xu said he took issue with how the Ministry of Home Affairs interpreted the original Instagram story as stated in the POFMA order.
According to the POFMA order, the basis on which the subject statement in the video is determined to be false is: “The police did not reprimand or taunt the elderly woman, shown in the Instagram story by Instagram user @nichology on 18 May 2021, for not wearing a mask.”
"The other things that the police are taking issue with has nothing to do with the POFMA correction direction," he added.