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Chee Soon Juan “very disappointed” by High Court’s dismissal of bid to have POFMA heard in open court

"The fact that the Ministry of Manpower has not publicly stated its reasons for rejecting our application, all the more the public then should be able to hear for themselves in court," said the SDP leader

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Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) secretary-general Chee Soon Juan has called the High Court’s decision to reject his party’s bid to have their anti-fake news law case heard in open court “very disappointing”.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo invoked the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) and issued Correction Directions to the SDP over two Facebook posts and an article that talked about the displacement of local workers by foreigners. The Government held that the SDP’s Facebook posts and article contained falsehoods.

While the SDP complied and posted correction notices on its article and Facebook posts, it later called on Ms Teo to cancel the Correction Directions and issue an apology. When the Minister refused to do so, the SDP challenged the Correction Directions in court.

The party also applied to have the case be heard in open court instead of being heard in chambers where it is not open to the public or the media. While the hearing still continues in the High Court, Justice Ang Cheng Hock dismissed the opposition party’s bid to have the case be heard in open court today (16 Jan).

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Expressing disappointment over the High Court’s decision, Dr Chee told the Straits Times: “In this case, it is not just about statistics but there are interpretations and opinions. There has to be more than one opinion and interpretation. That being the case, the public should hear both sides of the argument.

“The fact that the Ministry of Manpower has not publicly stated its reasons for rejecting our application, all the more the public then should be able to hear for themselves in court. It is very disappointing.”

Dr Chee, who was present in court today, added on Facebook that it was “unfortunate” that the Judge rejected the party’s application since the party felt that the “matter should be argued in open court because of the seriousness of the matter to all Singaporeans, ie, job security and unfair competition for jobs of Singaporeans.”

The opposition party leader said: “The job security of Singaporeans is of utmost importance. Hence, this case is of immense public interest in nature and should be given a public hearing.”

Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair told the press that the SDP’s application was dismissed since there was “no special reason” for the case to be heard in open court and that public interest is not a sufficient cause for a case to be moved from the chambers to open court.

On Facebook, Dr Chee added that he pressed Mr Nair, who is representing the Government, for data on Singaporean PMET unemployment since the Ministry of Manpower  (which said that the SDP’s statement that Singaporean PMET employment has decreased is false) has the data and can settle the matter once and for all.

The Deputy Attorney-General apparently said that “he will deal with the issue when he presents the MOM’s case. But he added that he may not even have to deal with the question.”

[Admin]: SDP vs MOM POFMA case update 2—————In this morning's session, Dr Chee pressed the Deputy AG Hri…

Posted by Chee Soon Juan 徐顺全 on Wednesday, January 15, 2020

[Admin]: SDP vs MOM POFMA case update 1—————High Court Judge Ang Cheng Hock has rejected SDP's application…

Posted by Chee Soon Juan 徐顺全 on Wednesday, January 15, 2020

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