Singapore GE2020: WP chief Pritam Singh says there is room for fair comment on population numbers

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SINGAPORE - Workers' Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh on Friday (July 3) questioned if Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan's comment on population numbers should be labelled a falsehood.

He added that there should be room for fair comment on the population target that Singapore is aiming for, since ministers have alluded in the past to the possibility of a larger population size.

Mr Singh made the remarks during a morning walkabout in Punggol West with the party's candidate Tan Chen Chen, one day after the ruling People's Action Party said a key plank of the SDP's election campaign is based on a false claim that the Government plans to raise the country's population to 10 million.

The PAP added that the honourable thing for SDP chief Chee Soon Juan to do would be to admit that his party's campaign was based on a falsehood, withdraw it, and apologise to Singaporeans for misleading them.

In the SDP's Four Yes, One No campaign, the opposition party had pledged that one of the things it would do if elected would be to say "No to 10 million population".

Weighing in on Friday, Mr Singh said the matter "seems to be an issue because of the nature of Pofma and the nature of falsehoods and how do we describe a falsehood".

Referring to the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), he noted that the law defines a falsehood as a false statement of fact.

"But you know, when you have ministers in the past who've made allusions to how we possibly could have more, a larger population size, then I think there is room for fair comment about really what is the size that we are aiming towards. I think most reasonable people would come to that conclusion," he said.

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He added: "We need to think hard about the nature of falsehood and really does this fall squarely in that sort of definition."

He acknowledged that Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan had said that Singapore was not even going to reach a population of 6.9 million.

"So one of the things I don't understand is why can't these things actually come up well before the elections. I mean it's the Government's position so it should state that very clearly," he added.

Dr Balakrishnan had, during a televised debate on Wednesday, corrected Dr Chee on the SDP's statement on the 10-million number.

Mr Singh also said that since the issue does not concern the WP, he did not want to delve too deeply into it.

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