Grace Fu asks Leon Perera to apologise for 'false allegations'

NCMP alleged Mediacorp edited clip on elected presidency debate

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, 2018. PHOTOS: LIANHE ZAOBAO, ST FILE

Leader of the House Grace Fu yesterday wrote to Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera, asking that he withdraw his "false allegations" that Mediacorp had deliberately edited parliamentary footage of a debate on changes to the elected presidency.

She also called on Mr Perera to apologise at the parliamentary sitting next Monday 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.

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

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.

In that exchange, Mr Perera claimed that Mediacorp had removed "certain bits" from a video on a debate last February. He also alleged Mediacorp rectified the omission only after he had intervened in an e-mail to the broadcaster.

However, Mr Chee pointed out in the same sitting that these allegations were 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 yesterday that Mr Perera e-mailed Mediacorp on Feb 20 about the video.

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

But on Nov 7, Mr Perera cited the incident as an example of Mediacorp deliberately editing parliamentary footage, with "misleading facts", she added.

Ms Fu 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".

While MPs enjoy parliamentary privilege to speak freely in Parliament and surface views from the public, they must be scrupulous with facts, she wrote.

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

Asked why Ms Fu sent the letter nearly two months after the sitting, a Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) spokesman said that as Mr Perera made the allegations in Parliament, the right forum to clear the matter would be in the House. "The earliest sitting since November's sitting is in fact the Jan 8 sitting," she added.

This isnot the first time the Leader of the House has asked MPs to withdraw their allegations and apologise for misrepresentation.

In 2009, former People's Action Party MP Sin Boon Ann 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 then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the Public Transport Council had deliberately misled Parliament and Singaporeans.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2018, with the headline Grace Fu asks Leon Perera to apologise for 'false allegations'. Subscribe