Edwin Tong; Parliament

Denying the growing dissent against the Singapore ruling party PAP government, Senior Minister Edwin Tong claimed that the criticisms are fake news posted by “anonymous foreign actors”.

Without providing any evidence, the PAP Minister asserted that foreign countries are trying to influence Singapore politics and sway Singaporeans’ support for the ruling party:

“When the dispute with Malaysia over maritime and airspace issues late last year was top news, there was a curious spike in online comments critical of Singapore on social media. These posts were made using what are essentially anonymous accounts. On the issue of traffic jams at land checkpoints, these avatar accounts with profile photos that do not show the user’s face account for about 40 per cent of comments on alternative media’s social media pages. This shows how foreign actors can interfere in Singapore’s politics through online campaigns and false information.”

The PAP Minister added at his Parliament speech yesterday (Feb 12) that Singaporeans who criticise the government on the bilateral issues with Malaysia are “foreign actors” who are creating a “fake impression” that Singaporeans are against the PAP stances:

“We do not know who these suspicious accounts belong to. Nor do we know if they are being coordinated by foreign actors. But it is clear that these accounts have sought to give and create an artificial impression to netizens of the opposition to Singapore’s position, at a time of heightened bilateral difficulties.”

Minister Edwin Tong also claimed that the PAP dictatorship is an “open democracy”, and thus it is vulnerable to “fake news”:

“In this battlefield, Singapore, an open, democratic, digitally-connected and diverse country, is especially vulnerable. We are a young country with sensitive fault-lines that foreign actors can exploit to foment distrust and ill-will among our various communities.”

The PAP Minister then advised Singaporeans to be “skeptical” of “fake news” and that he is also writing new laws to allow the government to ban any content and stop political funding of the country’s opposition and activist groups:

“We are our own first line of defence. We must learn to be sceptical of and be able to discern falsehoods or half-truths, and detect foreign actors and their attempts to interfere in our politics… The new laws have two broad objectives. One, to let the Government act swiftly and effectively to disrupt and counter false, misleading and inauthentic information and narratives spread by foreign actors. We must also be able to preemptively expose clandestine foreign interference campaigns. Two, to prevent foreign actors from manipulating politically-involved individuals and organisations through the use of proxies, funding and donations….We must not allow foreign actors to undermine our political sovereignty, nor our ability to make our own choices on how we want to govern our country, and live our lives.”