The Law and Home Affairs Minister, K Shanmugam, took the online publication, The Online Citizen, to task in Parliament today. The following are excerpts of his speech:
“There has been a number of inaccurate statement that had been put out. We say inaccurate based on the facts the police have. Some of the inaccurate statements which are false, is that the police were not in plain clothes when they went to the school to identify Benjamin. Effectively alleging that the police were lying to Singaporeans when they put out their statement on 1 February. That allegations that Benjamin was interviewed and intimidated by five police officers. That he must have been coerced to make an admission to an offence that he did not commit. Some have even suggested that the girl may not have been molested and might have made a false police report.
A number of these falsehoods have been put out by The Online Citizen (TOC). It has gone on a planned, orchestrated campaign using falsehoods. And has published about 20 articles or so, as part of this campaign. One example of the falsehood, as I said earlier, police said on 1 February that they went down in plain clothes. Yet TOC published an article on the 5th of February, stating that police wore an attire stating the words ‘police’. Suggesting that the police were lying to Singaporeans.
They had supposedly relied on a posting by a lady Mary Anne Pereira. She said that her son saw police officers with polo t-shirts in the word ‘police’. Police checked with Ms Periera. She said that she had gotten it wrong. She got her dates mixed-up.
She is wrong because the police went to the school in plain clothes on the 26th of January. She has taken down her post. People make many statements online. They can be mistaken. This is why there is a court process to establish the truth. The overall narrative and impression carried by the various TOC articles are, 1. police were lying, 2. the police intimidated the boy, and 3. the police put pressure on him to confess to a crime that he did not commit. Allegations, implications, which are false.
Practically leading people to conclude that Benjamin committed suicide as a result.”
— Channel NewsAsia (@ChannelNewsAsia) March 1, 2016
The Law and Home Affairs Minister also said that “it is sad to see the level of dishonesty and politicisation of this matter. Where the police are wrong – we must and will take action. But we should not allow deliberate, dishonest attacks.”
Mr Shanmugam further said that Benjamin’s family has asked for the coroner’s inquiry proceedings to be held in private, and that the “AGC will give the request careful consideration. Ultimately it will be up to the court to decide.” Any allegations being publicly aired now could be treated as Sub Judice – where cases still before the court could prejudice the verdict – the Minister warned.
“Once the coroner announces his findings – people can then offer their viewpoints and criticism on what the Police and the Ministry did, or did not do.
The various pronouncements, suggestions, statements which imply that five officers interviewed him; that the Police intimidated, pressured Benjamin, into wrongly admitting to guilt; other allegations, like that Police were lying when they said they went to the school in plainclothes; and that these must have been among the reasons why he probably committed suicide – these allegations may possibly infringe the principles of Sub Judice.
It is understandable when the family says some things. But TOC and its ilk should not engage in this, prior to the coroner’s inquiry.”
“The Rules of Sub Judice generally preclude discussions which may tend to influence proceedings. But public officials can make statements, if they believe it to be necessary in the public interest – even if there is a hearing pending. Among other things, public confidence in the Police must be maintained,” the Minister explained why he was commenting on the case now.
Mr Shanmugam said that such discussions however, should not become an automatic precedent for the future and that the Government will relook at the law to see how it can try and achieve this better.