Manpower Minister issues new, narrower Pofma direction to SDP

The High Court had upheld correction orders, ruling that the SDP's statements were false, based on MOM's statistics. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Minister for Manpower on Friday night (Oct 8) issued a new correction direction to the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) under the fake news law.

This came after the Court of Appeal set aside part of an original direction given to the opposition party for a falsehood that had to do with the employment situation in Singapore.

The SDP had been issued three such directions on Dec 14, 2019, under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) for false statements in its Facebook posts and in an article on its website titled SDP Population Policy: Hire S'poreans First, Retrench S'poreans Last.

The directions had taken issue specifically with the first statement - "local PMET retrenchment has been increasing" - referring to professionals, managers, executives and technicians, as well as the second statement - "local PMET employment has gone down".

The SDP had applied to the High Court to set aside these directions, arguing, among other things, that its second statement was referring only to Singaporean PMETs and not "local" PMETs, which would include permanent residents.

However, the High Court upheld the correction orders, ruling that the SDP's statements were false, based on the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) statistics.

On Friday, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court's findings on the first statement about local PMET retrenchment. In fact, the data - which SDP did not challenge - showed a decline, rather than increase in local PMET retrenchment.

But the court allowed part of the SDP's appeal involving the second statement, agreeing with the SDP that "local PMET employment" as used in the infographic in SDP's Facebook post, is to be understood as referring only to Singaporean PMETs, instead of both Singaporeans and permanent residents.

This rendered the correction direction inaccurate, since it had referred to PMETs who were both Singaporeans and permanent residents.

The MOM said on Friday that even if SDP's statement was referring to just Singapore citizens in PMET jobs, the claim that such employment has gone down is still completely false.

The number of Singaporeans employed in PMET jobs has increased steadily from 2015 to 2019, from 929,700 in 2015 to 958,400 in 2016, 974,800 in 2017, 1,009,600 in 2018 and 1,050,300 in 2019, said MOM.

"(Thus), the Minister for Manpower has instructed the Pofma Office to issue a correction direction to the SDP in relation to this false statement of fact," said MOM.

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