Singapore — Indranee Rajah, Singapore’s Second Minister for Finance, explained on a recent radio show how invoking the country’s newly-minted law against online falsehoods last week on politician Brad Bowyer was necessary.

This, she said, would clarify misperceptions involving public funds, particularly assertions that they were being mismanaged. Furthermore, Ms Indranee told the hosts of CNA938’s morning show Asia First that public funds are being handled carefully.

“Contrary to the impression created, public funds are being managed carefully and prudently for the public good. And that’s why it was necessary to issue the correction direction.”

The Second Minister for Finance added that the portfolio of Temasek has actually tripled. In 2002 it was at S$100 billion. Today, it is over S$300 billion.

She said that this is one reason why the country’s law against online falsehoods, POFMA (the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act) is needful, since “misperceptions and misconceptions exist when they are actively proliferated,” Channel NewsAsia (CNA) reported.

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On November 25, Mr Bowyer, who used to be with ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) but is now with Progress Singapore Party, was issued a direction to amend a Facebook post he had put up, the very first time that POFMA was invoked since it took effect in October.

Ms Indranee pointed out the three false statements that Mr Bowyer had made: One—that the decisions concerning investments that GIC and Temasek made are under Government control.

Ms Indranee clarified, “What the Government’s role is, is to appoint the relevant boards, and to make sure that GIC and Temasek act within their mandate,” and, on the contrary, these investment choices are made by the professionals who make up the investment teams for GIC and Temasek, since they have the requisite expertise in these matters.

Two—what Mr Bowyer had written concerning the Amaravati project, that a “substantial part” of the S$4 billion invested went to the project and had been involved in poor investments by Government-linked companies (GLCs) and related parties—was also false.

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The Second Minister for Finance clarified that the costs incurred by the consortium of Singaporean companies that had been involved in the project had only been in the low millions and had only included design services. Secondly, other firms from Singapore had also invested in the project, and not just GLCs and related parties.

Three—Mr Bowyer’s statement concerning Temasek’s investments in a steakhouse chain managed by the Turkish personality commonly known as Salt Bae was also false, Ms Indranee said.

This is because Temasek actually invested in D.ream International BV, which does own the steakhouse chain. But the firm actually experiencing financial difficulties is Dogus Holding, a shareholder of D.ream International BV.

Therefore, it was needful to correct the false statements contained in Mr Bowyer’s post, since they give the “overall impression” that GIC and Temasek are mismanaging public funds, as directed by the government.

Ms Indranee said, “That’s actually not true, because basically Temasek and GIC, together with MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore), actually contribute about 20 per cent of our revenues to our national budget.”

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In a statement on his own social media page on November 25, Mr Bowyer wrote that he amended his post “regarding Bharti Airtel, Salt Bae and various recent policy decisions with a correction notice which links to the government’s position”, adding that he had “no problem in following that request (for correction) as I feel it is fair to have both points of view and clarifications and corrections of fact when necessary”. -/TISG

Read related: Brad Bowyer corrects FB post on Temasek and GIC after govt invokes fake news law

Brad Bowyer corrects FB post on Temasek and GIC after govt invokes fake news law