SINGAPORE - Manpower Minister Josephine Teo has rejected the Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) application to cancel three correction notices issued under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), saying that the application did not provide "sufficient grounds" for the cancellation of the notices.
In a statement on Monday (Jan 6), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that it had received SDP's application last Friday.
"After careful consideration, the Minister for Manpower is of the view that the application does not provide sufficient grounds for the cancellation of the correction orders. The Minister for Manpower has therefore decided to refuse the application," said MOM in its statement, adding that the SDP has been notified of the decision.
Responding on Facebook, the SDP said: "MOM's non-answer leaves the SDP no choice but to pursue the matter in court."
On Dec 2, the SDP began running a series of sponsored posts on Facebook, including two about local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).
Both posts linked to the same article on the SDP website titled "SDP Population Policy: Hire S'poreans First, Retrench S'poreans Last", each accompanied by a different infographic.
One contained a graph labelled "local PMET employment" along with a downward arrow, while the other contained text that said "local PMET unemployment has increased".
On Dec 14, MOM, at the instructions of its minister, asked the SDP to correct the two posts and the online article.
It took issue with two claims that it said were falsehoods, including the graph in the Facebook post depicting the number of Singaporean PMETs employed as having fallen sharply.
The ministry's correction also stated that a sentence in the online article, claiming that a rising proportion of Singaporean PMETs are getting retrenched, is false. In response, the SDP said it had relied on media reports to make its claim.
The next day, MOM said the statistics reported by the media meant that among all retrenched locals, the number of PMETs among them had risen.
"This is fundamentally different from what the SDP says, which is that among Singapore PMETs, the number getting retrenched has risen," MOM had said.
On Jan 2, the SDP defended the posts and article, saying the statements it made "are, in fact, true and correct". It said MOM had accused it of making statements that it did not make, and that the ministry had used different sets of data from that which the party used to label its posts as false.
The party also disputed the ministry's statement that there has been no rising trend of local PMET retrenchment.
In its application to the MOM, the SDP had also accused the Manpower Minister of applying Pofma to the article, dated June 8, 2019, retroactively. Pofma came into effect on Oct 2 last year. But MOM said on Monday that this is "misconstrued".
"In particular, the article was hyperlinked in the SDP Facebook post and sponsored post, hence it was actively being publicised as late as December 2, 2019," said the MOM.
Now that the SDP's application has been rejected, it has 14 days to file an appeal with the High Court.