Four people receive police warning over online posts during Bukit Batok by-election

A man drops his vote into the box at Blk 105A Bukit Batok Central during the Bukit Batok by-election on May 7, 2016.
A man drops his vote into the box at Blk 105A Bukit Batok Central during the Bukit Batok by-election on May 7, 2016.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A man who runs a pro-People's Action Party Facebook page and three others behind a socio-political website have received stern warnings from the police for online posts they made during last year's Bukit Batok by-election.

Mr Chua Chin Seng, who runs the Fabrications About The PAP Facebook page, and Mr Kumaran Pillai, Mr Ravi Philemon, and Mr Alfred Dodwell, who are involved in The Independent Singapore website, had published online articles during Cooling-Off Day and Polling Day of the by-election held in 2016.

By doing so, they had breached the prohibition of election advertising on those days and commited an offence under the Parlaimentary Elections Act, a police statement said on Thursday.

"Upon careful consideration of all the circumstances of the cases, including the nature of the publications, the Attorney-General's Chambers decided to administer stern warnings to all parties," the police said.

"Should any of the parties commit similar offences in subsequent elections, the stern warning that was administered can be taken into consideration in the decision to prosecute."

The police had begun investigations into both outfits last year after receiving police reports last year following the May by-election.

An officer from the Elections Department (ELD) had filed a police report against The Independent Singapore for publishing articles on Cooling-Off Day and Polling Day. The website had continued to post articles in violation of the rule, even after receiving a specific reminder from the Assistant Returning Officer not to do so, the ELD had said.

Three weeks later, Mr Augustine Lee of opposition People's Power Party made a police report against Fabrications About The PAP. He said the page had put up two Facebook posts on Polling Day.

Election advertising, which includes posts intended to enhance the standing of a party or candidate or to promote their electoral success, is prohibited on Cooling-Off Day and Polling Day.

Posting election advertising on those days is an offence under the Parliamentary Elections Act. A person found guilty of doing so may be fined up to $1,000, jailed for up to 12 months, or both.

The rule was put in place to give voters time to reflect rationally on issues raised before they vote.

In its statement on Thursday, the police reiterated this, saying:"The Cooling-Off Day breaches detected during the 2016 Bukit Batok By-Election go against the spirit of the election rule. Left unchecked, such breaches can undermine public trust in Singapore's electoral process."

Election candidates and their supporters are expected to abide by the relevant laws on both days, the police added.