House Leader Grace Fu asks WP's Leon Perera to apologise for misleading Parliament over Mediacorp's footage

House Leader Grace Fu called on Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera to withdraw his "false allegation" and to apologise at the parliamentary sitting on Jan 8. PHOTOS: LIANHE ZAOBAO, ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Leader of the House Grace Fu on Wednesday (Jan 3) wrote to Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera, asking that he withdraw his "false allegations" that Mediacorp had deliberately edited parliamentary footage.

She also called on Mr Perera to apologise at the parliamentary sitting next Monday (Jan 8) for misrepresenting the facts and misleading Parliament during an earlier sitting on Nov 7 last year.

"I hope that having had time to reflect on the matter, you will do the right thing and set a correct example for maintaining clean and honest politics in Singapore," she wrote.

In her letter copied to Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, Ms Fu set out the sequence of events before and after Mr Perera's exchange with Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat on Nov 7.

When contacted, Mr Perera said he is studying the letter and considering the most appropriate response.

In the Nov 7 exchange, Mr Perera claimed that Mediacorp had removed "certain bits" from a video on a debate over the Presidential Elections Bill last February.

He had also alleged that Mediacorp only rectified the omission after he had intervened in an e-mail to the broadcaster.

However, Mr Chee pointed out in the same sitting that these allegations are untrue, having checked with Mediacorp on the nature and timeline of Mr Perera's correspondence.

In response, Mr Perera had said he was prepared to accept this fact once he verified it with his e-mail archive, and that it "could well be" the case as Mr Chee described it.

Mr Perera also said he brought up the anecdote about Mediacorp to establish whether or not there was any editing of Parliamentary footage that is occasionally done.

Ms Fu, who is also Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, noted in her letter released on Wednesday that Mr Perera had e-mailed Mediacorp on Feb 20 about the truncated video.

He was informed that a technical glitch had affected the recording and the full clip was put online two days earlier, on Feb 18. Mr Perera replied to Mediacorp on Feb 21 and accepted their explanation, Ms Fu said.

But Mr Perera proceeded to give "misleading facts" at the Nov 7 sitting, she added.

"MPs enjoy Parliamentary privilege so that they can speak freely in Parliament, to surface views from their constituents and the public. However, in their Parliamentary interventions MPs must be scrupulous with facts," wrote Ms Fu.

"They must not misuse this privilege to misrepresent facts or make unfounded allegations. This will lower the standing of MPs and the Parliament, and undermine the integrity of our political system," she said.

She said Mr Perera's allegations are a serious matter, as they amount to "a misrepresentation of facts and if left uncorrected, a misleading of Parliament".

She called on Mr Perera to make a statement at the end of question time next Monday that his allegations were untrue, withdraw them, and apologise.

This is not the first time that the Leader of the House has asked an MP to withdraw their allegations and apologise for misrepresentation.

In 2009, former People's Action Party MP (Tampines GRC) Sin Boon Ann had criticised The Straits Times for its reporting of the Aware saga, citing an e-mail he received from a person unknown to him which he had not verified, but "would not be surprised if it were true and would be very concerned if it is".

Mr Sin apologised the next day in Parliament for a lack of due diligence, and then Leader of the House Mah Bow Tan later issued a stern reminder to all MPs to not rely on unsubstantiated allegations.

In 2002, former Speaker of Parliament and then East Coast MP Tan Soo Khoon apologised for suggesting in a speech on transport fare hikes that Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the Public Transport Council had deliberately misled Parliament and Singaporeans.

Under Parliament rules, the Leader of the House is responsible for arranging government business in Parliament and will advise the House on what action to take if a difficulty arises, such as when an MP breaks certain rules.

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