Lim Tean called the POFMA correction order that was issued to him today (16 Dec) a “pathetic demand” as he revealed that he is considering his legal options over the action.
POFMA stands for the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act – an anti-fake news law that provides the government with powers to act against online falsehoods to protect public interest. The law, which went into effect in October, gives ministers the authority to determine what is an online falsehood and whether to take action.
The POFMA Office, which administers correction orders, was instructed by the Ministry of Education to issue a Correction Direction to Mr Lim Tean on false statements made in two of his Facebook posts.
In issuing the POFMA Correction Directive, the Education Minister charged that the Facebook posts published on 12 December 2019 at 8.30am and 4.00pm respectively by Mr Lim Tean contain false and misleading statements. The Correction Direction requires Mr Lim to carry the correction notice in full at the top of both Facebook posts.
In the Facebook posts that were flagged, Mr Lim had stated that “the total pot available to Singaporean students [is] $167 million compared to the $238 million that is spent on foreign students”. He further stated that “PAP spends $167 million on Grants & Bursaries for Singaporeans, but $238 million on foreign students??”.
These statements imply that MOE spends less on Singaporean students than on foreign students. The Education Ministry under Mr Ong Ye Kung said that this is false and misleading, and clarified:
“MOE’s annual budget is $13B, almost all of which is spent on Singapore citizens. The $167M cited by Mr Lim refers only to bursaries for Singaporean tertiary students, and grossly understates MOE’s total spending on Singaporean citizens for education. The figures of $167M and $238M are therefore not comparable.
“The more appropriate comparison should be nearly $13B spent on Singaporean students to provide subsidised education for all Singaporean students at all levels, as against the $238M attributed to foreign students referred to by Mr Lim Tean, which is less than 2% of the total education budget.
“Further, it should be noted that much of MOE’s budget goes towards costs such as infrastructure, facilities, laboratories, faculty and teaching force, etc., which are either fixed or non-variable up to the medium term, to provide education for Singaporean students. A large part of the $238M attributed to foreign students comprises these fixed and non-variable costs that we have to incur anyway, whether or not we admit a small proportion of foreign students (currently 5%) in the system.”
The Directive explained that the Education Minister explained this in Parliament on August 5.
The Education Ministry clarified that Singapore’s admissions system ensures that no Singaporean student is deprived of a place by a foreign student, and that having a small proportion of foreign students in our schools and institutions brings diversity into classrooms and helps our students develop cross-cultural competencies, which it described as “a key skill in today’s world.” It added:
“Likewise, many Singaporean students receive scholarships from, and study in, other countries. We are all part of an inter-connected global ecosystem. Singapore has benefited greatly from establishing such linkages and forming people to people friendships with different countries and cultures. Having some foreign students in our education system enables many more Singaporean students to enjoy similar benefits.”
In a Facebook post published this morning, Mr Lim called POFMA a “crybaby legislation” and branded the correction order that was issued to him as a “pathetic demand”. Revealing that he is considering his legal options, he wrote:
“This morning at 9.05 am I received an email from the POFMA office alleging that I had made false and misleading statements in one of my FB posts published on 12 December at 4pm.
“This is a pathetic demand by a government that is obviously nervous about public reaction to the established fact that it spends $238 million on grants and scholarships on foreign students compared to $167 million on grants and bursaries on local students every year. And I am being generous when I use the figure of $167 million because it was $44 million less until Lee Hsien Loong announced the $44 million increase in his National Day Rally speech in August this year.
“And Singaporeans should have no illusion that this is a government that was spending close to $500 million on grants and scholarships for foreign students before that figure was halved to $238 million compared to $123 million on Singaporean students.
“Anyone who read my post and the series of posts I made on this subject last week would have been under no mistaken impression that I was discussing the amount of money spent on grants and scholarships and not the overall spending on ALL Singaporean students.
“I am considering my legal options regarding this notice. It is so absurd it is laughable and to me POFMA is the “ Cry Baby “ legislation that must be repealed on the very 1st day a non-PAP Government is elected into office.
“It is clear to me that POFMA is being used by this government ahead of the upcoming GE to silence its Opponents and chill public discussion of unpopular government policies.”
I Have Been Given A Notice Under The “Cry Baby” Legislation. This morning at 9.05 am I received an email from the…