Siew Kum Hong files police report over defamation
Wayang Party is reporting that NMP Siew Kum Hong, who recently submitted his papers for another term as NMP just filed a police report today alleging defamatory remarks amidst a whispering astroturfing campaign to discredit and undermine him (update: Channel News Asia has this report):
We have received an email from Mr Siew Kum Hong informing us that a police report has been made on the matter with a request to remove the defamatory posts.
Those seeking to discredit him have insinuated he was backed by a foreign Swedish MP who donated and collaborated with the SDP as well as himself; that he was essentially the SDP’s shadow MP in Parliament:
The latest attacks have alleged and/or insinuated that Siew asked for and am receiving foreign funding from a Swedish politician Johan Skandral, who allegedly funds the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) as well, and (b) he is involved or associated with the SDP and may be their representative or “mole” in Parliament.
Siew issued a strongly worded denial of the claims today in a blog post:
The attacks have continued since my last posting on this blog. In particular, the latest attacks have alleged and/or insinuated that (a) I asked for and am receiving foreign funding from a Swedish politician, who allegedly funds the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) as well, and (b) I am involved or associated with the SDP and may be their representative or “mole” in Parliament.
Both of these allegations are untrue and false. They are vile, vicious and malicious attacks on me, and nothing short of character assassination. I consider them extremely defamatory and criminal in nature.
I did not at any time ask for, and have not at any time been offered or accepted, any sort of funding from any local or foreign entity, including the Swedish politician named in the latest attack. The only sources of income (or funding) that I have, are my employer and the Government of Singapore (in the form of my monthly NMP allowance). Furthermore, I am not involved or affiliated or associated, whether directly, indirectly or in any other way, with the SDP, and am certainly not their representative or “mole” in Parliament.
Accordingly, I made a police report on this matter tonight. I have also requested those forums that I am aware are currently hosting these falsehoods, to take them down.
As someone who wholeheartedly endorses Siew’s bid for re-appointment as NMP, I am rather ambivalent about this. The price of democracy is freedom of speech, and though I decry the baseless attacks against his character and, I fear that Siew’s police report will reinforce the precedent set by the ruling party of leveling lawsuits against their critics. It is rather disturbing to see that Siew specifically requested the authorities to extirpate forum threads and posts in which those allegations are being discussed. More worryingly he also wrote the following:
I have to date refrained from taking any legal action in response to the lies and falsehoods that have been levelled at me. But this latest attack goes beyond anything that a reasonable person could possibly perceive as being a valid or legitimate exercise of the right to free speech, and I certainly will not tolerate the latest rounds of character assassination from cowards hiding behind the perceived anonymity of the Internet.
It’s troubling to me that Siew thinks that free speech should have its limits and his remark about individuals hiding behind the veil of “perceived anonymity of the Internet” bears chilling resemblance to the one uttered earlier by minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan:
That is why we prosecuted three bloggers in 2007 under the Sedition Act. Anonymity is an illusion in cyberspace. Let me say categorically that we will not hesitate to do so again if need be. However, we should also remember that the new media as a tool is neutral. It can and should be used to counter divisive and false ideologies.
Personally I felt that Siew should have first issued a strongly worded denial on his blog, accompanied by a threat to litigate the matter before taking action, if necessary. His failure to do so is certainly regrettable. Short-cutting the process and jumping straight into litigation may only serve to reinforce the perception that freedom of speech may be acceptably chilled and regulated by the police authorities.
Apart from the above, Siew may be doing nothing more than playing into the hands of his detractors, those same people behind the whispering campaign. Already the headline of this report by state media Channel News Asia portrays his action in an unflattering light, as one opposed to freedom of speech on the Web:
NMP Siew Kum Hong makes police report against netizens
While this incident has not made me reconsider my personal advocacy of his re-appointment as NMP, I fear that Siew’s opponents in the government may exploit this opportunity (along with the state media) to sink any chances Siew has of being re-appointed. Siew’s actions may have brought him far more harm than good. I fear the worst for him, but hope for the best.