Mothership and 7 others apologize for distorting K Shanmugam’s ‘rule of law’ debate

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam in Parliament on Oct. 4, 2020.
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam in Parliament on Oct. 4, 2020.

A local news outlet and nine individuals were ordered to apologize yesterday for misrepresenting comments by the home affairs minister on the importance of a judiciary. 

Mothership has already apologized and changed an article that took K Shanmugam’s words out of context, implying the minister did not believe the rule of law exists in Singapore, when he was actually talking about other countries. Seven people, several of whom cited the article, have posted apologies and correction statements under ministry order. Two others have yet to do so. 

“Regrettably, I republished Mothership.sg’s misrepresentation of the Minister’s comments in my Facebook post with a comment that reiterated the words in the Mothership.sg article to imply that he said that Rule of Law does not operate in Singapore,” activist Kokila Annamalai said. “I apologise for sharing Mothership’s misrepresentation of the Minister’s comments.”

Others to post government-mandated apologies included an online page – Wake Up, Singapore – and two commentators – Martyn See and Andrew Loh. Facebook user Julie O’Connor, documentary maker Lynn Lee, and journalist Kirsten Han were also involved. Peoples Voice Party leader Lim Tean and activist Jolovan Wham, both of whom posted the quote “Rule of law is a concept for lawyers, but it doesn’t operate in the real world” without citing the article, have left their respective online posts as is. 

Shanmugam, who is also the law minister, was responding to Opposition Leader Pritam Singh’s point about the importance of separation of powers when he said those words during Monday’s 10-hour debate prior to the passing of the foreign interference bill. 

“I said in my speech that the rule of law is fundamental to our existence and our well-being as a country,” he said in Monday’s parliamentary debate, later adding: “I also take separation of powers very seriously, the constitutional principles, the independence of the judiciary, all of these I take very seriously.”

But such norms may not be the case in other countries, the minister claimed, citing events such as the 9/11 attacks.

“You see the issues around the world where lip service is paid to all these grand concepts but the societies live in utter misery, where rule of law is a concept for lawyers but it doesn’t operate in the real world,” he said.

His comments came during a heated 10-hour debate Monday over a bill to reign in foreign influence in Singaporean politics that critics say is a stalking horse for even greater censorship and control by the government.

The Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill, or FICA, passed Monday 75 to 11 with the support of all lawmakers in the ruling People’s Action Party. The opposition Workers’ Party and Progressive Singapore Party’s Leong Mun Wai opposed it.

Other stories:

Singapore’s primary students are returning to the classroom – but is it safe?

Singapore PM’s bro offloading S$30M in fancy bungalows

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