Singapore — The day before the second reading of Singapore’s landmark, if somewhat contentious anti-fake news bill, K Shanmugan sat down with ‘Ah Lian’ to clarify some of the main points of POFMA, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill.
In an informal and humorous setting, the country’s Law and Home Affairs minister talked about the bill with actress Michelle Chong, who was in her ‘Ah Lian’ character.
Premium Lian interview Dua Liap Minister K Shanmugam Sc.
Posted by Michelle Chong on Friday, 3 May 2019
Mr Shamnugam said,
“You know there are some people who purposely put out things which are not true?
So this law is light a torchlight, to let people know what is true and what is not true.
It’s like that, people want to trick you.”
‘Ah Lian’ replied, “Who will want to trick me? I will hit them. I am not that gullible.”
The Minister laughed and explained further that there are people, even in Singapore, who manufacture falsehoods to “Make people angry, they want to get people out on the streets. Riots have happened.
They take a video of people at a cricket match, and they say Muslims are celebrating a terror attack. 500,000 people see the video within a few hours.”
‘Ah Lian’ told Mr Shanmugam that her ‘godbrother’ told her that the bill was introduced “so that we cannot criticise the government…. Why? Are you scared?
The minister replied, “You have been saying so many things…about the CPF… ministerial salary…and your followers too. No, no, all that is not covered by this law.
Even if you say, it’s ok. Your followers can say, anybody can say. All this is not covered by the law.”
The word ‘followers’ seemed to spark off something in ‘Ah Lian,” who began to read to him from her phone some of the things her followers had said.
“A follower said you are very scary and fierce. This follower is dead! He dares to say such things of the minister.”
Mr Shamugam said reassuringly, “That is their opinion, not covered by this law.”
The banter between the Law Minister and the actress went on, with Mr Shanmugam joking at one point that he should say that he likes ‘Ah Lean,’ otherwise one of her followers might throw eggs at him, in reference to an incident last March when two men were investigated for a joke online one of them made that he wanted to throw eggs at Mr Shanmugam.
‘Ah Lian’ also asked him, “What if my godbrother says, ‘Actually it’s the Ministers who decide what is true or false in Singapore?”
He answered, “That’s not true.
Under the law, the courts can decide finally (the court’s decision is final).”
When ‘Ah Lian’ expressed concern about heavy court fees, Mr Shanmugam said, “That, we make very simple.
You go to court, you explain, and you don’t need lawyers. There’s a form you fill up, it’ll take a short time, not much money required. The judge will decide whether it’s true or not true.”
Ms Chong’s video, which was posted on her Facebook page, as well as shared on Mr Shanmugam’s, has been widely liked, shared and commented upon. It was also published on her YouTube channel where it has been viewed over 16,000 times.
Many commenters had positive things to say and expressed appreciation that the interview about POFMA was easy to understand, as well as informative and entertaining.
However, the video was not without a few critics for both Ms Chong and the Law Minister. A few commenters on the Minister’s account said that he should “seriously engage and debate with people” over such a “serious topic.”
Ms Chong, on her part, was criticised for becoming a “conduit for politics.”