The Singapore Democratic Party’s appeal against the Ministry of Manpower over Correction Directions issued under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) has been scheduled to be heard in the High Court on Thursday (Jan 16).
The appeal is not open to the public or the media, owing to prevailing rules governing both the law and the courts.
In a post on its website on Wednesday (Jan 15), the SDP outlined three reasons as to why it felt its case should be heard in open court. In order for this to be possible, the judge would have to convert the originating summons into a writ action.
According to a High Court spokesman, the SDP appeal was filed by way of an originating summons, which is one of two possible ways of starting a civil action.
The rules of court provide that all originating summonses shall be heard in chambers, subject to directions of the court, among other things.
The spokesman also said: “As the Pofma appeal was filed by way of an originating summons, the appeal was hence arranged to be heard in chambers instead of open court.”
In its post, the SDP stated: “Unlike other cases between private entities over domestic disputes that have limited interest to the public, this matter involves a government ministry no less and a political party that will be contesting in the next GE engaged over the subject of job security of Singaporeans — a subject which survey after survey show are of great concern to the public.”
It added that having the hearing in open court is crucial as members of the public will be able to decide on the matter for themselves. Being transparent in the entire process also builds trust.
It added: “There is legal precedence for the court to order the hearing in open court. The SDP will cite at least two such cases.”
The party also wrote: “Minister Josephine Teo has made serious allegations against the SDP. We are confident of our arguments and, as such, we are prepared to have them scrutinised by the court and the public. We hope that the MOM feels the same way about its case.”
What initially happened
On Dec 2, the SDP published a sponsored Facebook post with a graphic showing plunging local PMET employment. This post and an earlier social media post on Nov 30 linked to an article on the party’s website which asserted that the SDP’s Singaporeans First policy proposal “comes amidst a rising proportion of Singaporean PMETs getting retrenched”.
Refuting the statement that local PMET retrenchment is rising, the MOM said the number of retrenched local PMETs and the number of local PMETs retrenched as a share of all local PMET employees has declined since 2015. It also said that the graphic the SDP published was wrong and that the ministry’s Comprehensive Labour Force Survey shows that local PMET employment has risen steadily since 2015.
On Dec 16, while the SDP complied with the Pofma Correction Directions and posted Correction Notices on its article and earlier Facebook posts, it said that “the conclusions that Manpower Minister Josephine Teo has come to are disputable”. /TISG