Forum: Pofma case: Brad Bowyer's Facebook post contained several factual falsehoods

Progress Singapore Party member Brad Bowyer had implied in a Nov 13 post that the Government controls Temasek's and GIC's commercial decisions, which is false, the Government said on its fact-checking website Factually.
Progress Singapore Party member Brad Bowyer had implied in a Nov 13 post that the Government controls Temasek's and GIC's commercial decisions, which is false, the Government said on its fact-checking website Factually.PHOTO: GOV.SG

Ms Avantika Narayan sought clarifications on the distinction between fact and opinion, in relation to the use of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) against a Facebook post put up by Mr Brad Bowyer (Pofma: Can the distinction between fact and opinion be clarified?, ST Online, Dec 9).

Pofma does not prevent expression of opinions. It is intended to prevent the spread of false statements of fact. Mr Bowyer's Facebook post contained several such factual falsehoods.

First, Mr Bowyer asserted that a substantial part of "$4 billion" was put in the Amaravati project. This is false because the $4 billion figure refers to investments in Andhra Pradesh state as a whole, and not Amaravati alone. The private sector consortium had incurred a few million dollars in costs in Amaravati, rather than the billions claimed by Mr Bowyer.

Furthermore, Mr Bowyer asserted that the investments in Andhra Pradesh have been entirely by government-linked companies and related parties, whereas other Singaporean companies with no links to the Government have also invested in Andhra Pradesh.

Second, in relation to Salt Bae, Mr Bowyer falsely asserted that Temasek had invested in a debt-ridden company, whereas Temasek had invested in a different entity.

Third, based on these false examples, Mr Bowyer implied that the Singapore Government controls Temasek's and GIC's commercial decisions. This is also false. The Government does not influence or direct individual investment decisions made by Temasek or GIC.

Pofma was not used against Mr Bowyer's opinion on the performance of the specific investments.

Mr Bowyer is entitled to his opinion. But the Government has to clarify Mr Bowyer's false statements of fact, which he used to build a misleading narrative about our reserves to discredit the Government and smear the reputations of Temasek and GIC.

Temasek's portfolio value has tripled from under $100 billion to $313 billion since 2002. Temasek, GIC and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) contribute around 20 per cent of government revenues. Far from being a drain on the exchequer, the Net Investment Returns from Temasek, GIC and MAS form our single largest revenue source.

Furthermore, Mr Bowyer's Facebook post has not been removed. Mr Bowyer is required under Pofma to only display the correction notice that directs readers to the Factually article (Corrections and clarifications regarding falsehoods posted by Mr Brad Bowyer) which contains the correct facts. Readers can study the clarification and draw their own conclusions.

Lim Zhi Jian

Director, Reserves & Investment

Ministry of Finance

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2019, with the headline 'Pofma case: Brad Bowyer's Facebook post contained several factual falsehoods'. Subscribe