Singapore—The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) said on Tuesday (Feb 11) that it received notice from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) saying it would not claim costs for the POFMA case SDP had filed.
SDP has said, however, that it will be applying for waived costs should the party proceed with the appeal of the decision handed down by High Court Judge Ang Cheng Hock.
SDP posted a copy of the letter sent via email from Hri Kumar Nair, Fu Qijing and Amanda Sum to the Supreme Court, to which the party had been CC’d.
The letter read, “We refer to OS 15, and the Judgment delivered by the Honorable Ang Cheng Hock on 5 February 2020. His Honor had directed at paragraph 130 of the Judgment that it there is any claim for costs, the Respondent is to wrote (sic) the Court within one week to justify its basis for seeking costs.
We write to inform that the Respondent is not making any claim for costs in these proceedings. Thank you.”
Background of the case
On Wednesday, February 5, the High Court dismissed the challenge brought forward by the SDP concerning a correction direction issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) about employment statistics the party had posted.
In the first-ever challenge to the country’s law targeted against fake news, the High Court said that SDP’s statements about employment statistics were false.
SDP last year had noted in an online article as well as two Facebook posts the increasing trend of retrenchments of Singaporean PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians).
In December, MOM issued a directive to get the party to amend the posts and article under POFMA, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, as they contained falsehoods.
On January 3, SDP applied to MOM to cancel the directive, and when MOM turned this down, the party filed a challenge against the directive in High Court.
According to Justice Ang Cheng Hock the party’s statements were “in fact false in the face of the statistical evidence against them”.
“I reiterate that the appellant has not challenged the accuracy of the statistical evidence, and has instead sought to critique it on other grounds,” added the judge.
SDP “very disappointed”
In a statement released on the afternoon of February 5, SDP expressed it was “very disappointed” with the High Court’s verdict, and is considering an appeal.
But the party noted in its statement that according to the Judge, the court’s role in this particular situation is to “interpret the legislation and ‘in that sense is constrained by what legislation compels.’
SDP added in the statement, “We also note that the Judge had pointed out that ‘Unlike the Minister, who is able to rely on the machinery of the state to procure the relevant evidence of falsity, the maker of a statement often has to contend with far more limited resources.”
The party repeated its premise, which it had argued in Court, that Singapore’s law against online falsehood should only “be applied to clear cut cases of falsehoods, not for interpretations of statistical data.”
Some supporters encouraged the party to proceed with the appeal.
Others said that perhaps it’s time for SDP to set its eye on the coming GE and conserve their strength for it, instead of proceeding with the appeal.