The police have issued stern warnings to an alternative news website and four individuals for flouting electoral campaigning rules during the 2016 Bukit Batok by-election.
Acting on the directions of the Attorney-General’s Chambers, police issued the warnings to Chua Chin Seng, The Independent Singapore (TISG), Masilamani Pillai Kumaran, Ravi Chandran Philemon and Alfred Dodwell. “Should any of the parties commit similar offences in subsequent elections, the stern warning that was administered can be taken into consideration in the decision to prosecute,” said a police spokesman.
The parties involved published online articles in breach of the prohibition of election advertising on Cooling-Off Day (6 May) and Polling Day (7 May), an offence under the Parliamentary Elections Act.
Yahoo Singapore understands that two of the articles were found on the Fabrications About The PAP page, which is seen as a pro-People’s Action Party site and is run by Chua.
Augustine Lee Zixu, organising secretary of the opposition People’s Power Party, filed a police report in June last year to complain that the two articles on the page had violated Cooling-Off Day rules. One article called for Bukit Batok residents to vote for PAP candidate Murali Pillai and the other article was critical of Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan, who ran in the by-election.
Separately, TISG published two articles, “5 highlights of DPM’s speech” and “Workers’ Party and the Bukit Batok By-election” on Cooling-Off Day (6 May) and another article, “Tan Cheng Bock denies involvement in posting by irrational group of PAP fans” on Polling Day (7 May). The articles prompted the Elections Department to file a police report against TISG in the same month.
Upon careful consideration of all the circumstances of the cases, including the nature of the publications, the Attorney-General’s Chambers decided to administer stern warnings to all parties. The offence is punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 or to a jail term not exceeding 12 months or both.
“The prohibition of election advertising on Cooling-Off Day and Polling Day allows voters time to step back from the excitement and emotion of campaigning, to reflect on the issues at stake before casting their votes.
The Cooling-Off Day breaches detected during the 2016 Bukit Batok by-election go against the spirit of the election rule. Left unchecked, such breaches can undermine public trust in Singapore’s electoral process,” added the police spokesman.