38 Oxley Rd: “Add oil to the fire (ceasefire)” “for the sake of S’pore”?

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I refer to the article “Questionable leak of Li Sheng Wu’s private Facebook post and AGC’s troubling comments to the media” (theonlinecitizen, Jul 17).

It states that ”

Who made the query to AGC?

Channel News Asia reported, “In response to media queries, the AGC said on Monday it is aware of the post and is looking into the matter.”

Now, if one were to stop and think about it. Isn’t the scenario kind of weird?

  • The only source of the Facebook post has been from “Thoughts of Real Singaporeans”, therefore media outlets would have to first check with Mr Li before writing to AGC for comments.
  • But even if Mr Li confirmed that he did make the comment, there is no news angle to the story because he merely shared a post from WSJ saying that it is a good summary.
  • Media outlets do not over think or assume on context of comments, so it would be far-fetch to say that some media outlet will write to ask AGC if they will want to comment on a private FB post.

So in light of the above points, one will have to wonder which media outlet sent the query in the first place and what were the questions?

Now if the media query was sent from Observer.news to seek an opinion from AGC, a relatively unknown news site and the post should be clearly understood by AGC to be private, why did AGC see a need to respond to their query? AGC could choose to keep their silence over the matter or just say no comments. If AGC had replied no comments, the media outlets would have no story to follow up on.

AGC’s troubling comment on a private Facebook post

On 15 August 2016, Minister of Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam said in Parliament during the debate on the proposed Administration of Justice bill:

“Mr Louis Ng asked about putting up a Facebook post. I do not want to be standing here and giving legal advice but I cannot see how putting up a Facebook post poses a real risk of prejudicing proceedings unless you are the Prime Minister with a million followers and everybody reads what you say.

So, you look at who is saying it, you look at the reach, you look at the possibility of influencing the court, you look at the whole host of factors and these are best left to the court. But in the broad types of cases that Mr Kok has mentioned, just ask yourself what is the real risk of prejudicing the proceedings. And remember the other point – the law is the same before and tomorrow. So, Mr Miyagi, Mr Brown, whatever they have said, have they been charged?”

One can take it that what the Minister’s stance is that one’s reach and possibility of influencing public are considerations of whether one can be considered of prejudicing court proceedings. One would suppose that should be extended to scandalising of the court.

If that is so, why did AGC choose to reply that it is looking into the comments of Mr Li which was made to his friends on Facebook when the post was limited to friends? True enough that Mr Li is a person of importance but even in the case of the Prime Minister or the Law Minister, should they be taken to task for posts that are made in private and leaked out by friends who had ulterior motives to tar their good name?

Is AGC stating on record with their comment to the media that their stance on contempt differs from that of the Law Minister?

By issuing a statement on a private Facebook comment that is barely reported by the media outlet in Singapore, isn’t it making a mountain out of an anthill, and further exaggerating any possible damage to the public perception of the court?

If indeed Mr Li’s comments are deemed to be that influential for AGC to look into the matter, should it not at least wait till it has enough evidence or proof for further actions before making a comment? What the media is reporting now is pure verbatim of what AGC has to say about looking into the matter without a clue as to what is the basis of the investigation.

It is common knowledge now that the current Attorney General, Mr Lucien Wong is the personal lawyer to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the matters of 38 Oxley Road and the Deputy Attorney General, Hri Kumar was a former People’s Action Party Member of Parliament. Is the AGC not in anyway concerned that it is perceived to be abusing its authority to fix citizens whom are in dispute with the government or the establishment?

Would this not warrant a statement from the AG and DAG that they are recusing from the statement made by AGC and the investigations upon the comment made by Mr Li in his private space?

Singapore becoming like North Korea?

With the media going ape-shit over AGC’s response without much input into the legality of the matter, citizens who are unaware of their rights and the law surrounding contempt of court are likely to tighten their lips further and will warn each other not to engage in discussions on the matters of court, lest they be charged by the government for an offence that only needs the endorsement of the AG, a former (or maybe current) personal lawyer to the PM.

The question here is not whether Mr Li’s comments on the court constitute an offence but whether after AGC’s “looking into”, will it clarify on the legality of one making comments in private quarters and social space? Is the government making a statement here that it will not tolerate any expression of negativity towards the Judiciary whether it is on a public or private setting?

Noting that AGC’s unwarranted comment on Mr Li’s Facebook post was elicited from the leak by “Thought of Real Singaporeans”, another question that one might have, is whether the upcoming bill to legislate “fake news” will cover news/commentary sites like “Thought of Real Singaporeans”, sites with agendas that favor the establishment and paint the oppositions and dissents in a bad light.”

In view of the above and that many members of the Government, including several Ministers have said that a “ceasefire” to settle the matter privately is best “for the sake of Singapore” – why is that – “Senior Minister of State for Health and Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat was quoted by Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao on Monday as saying that he was “disappointed” with Mr Li’s actions.

Mr Chee, who was the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s Principal Private Secretary from 2008 to 2011, added: “Is this respecting Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his values? I don’t understand why he continues to launch online attacks, after his father already said he was going to stop doing so.”” – when the Minister actually said just recently that – “Mr Chee also noted Mr Lee Hsien Yang had said he is “a man working to honour his father’s wishes”.

“Singapore was Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s lifelong passion and it is his legacy. Mr Lee would not wish for a family dispute to be turned into a public quarrel that hurt Singapore’s international standing. Neither would he wish for baseless allegations to be made against Government leaders and institutions, undermining confidence in the systems he created,” he said.

“If my former Boss were still around, I think he would want everyone to put Singapore as the priority and stop all the quarrelling and finger-pointing, so that we can get back to running the country, solving the practical problems we are facing and improving the lives of our people,” he added”.

So, who is doing the – “add oil to the fire (ceasefire)” – “for the sake of Singapore”!

Leong Sze Hian

 

 

About the Author

Leong
Leong Sze Hian has served as president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), invited to speak more than 200 times in over 30 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of Indonesia and Brunei. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.