Man makes police report against alleged flouting of elections advertising rules with PAP-related materials

Report was lodged on on 29 May.

By Jonathan Lim |Martino Tan | May 31, 2016

An individual by the name of Teng Yong Ping Daryl announced on his Facebook that he has lodged a police report on the alleged flouting of elections advertising rules involving materials depicting People’s Action Party (PAP) candidates.

This was done presumably in response to the Elections Department (ELD) making a police report against socio-political site The Independent Singapore, ex-ISA detainee Teo Soh Lung and blogger Roy Ngerng for allegedly flouting “Cooling Off Day” rules on political reporting during the recent Bukit Batok by-election.

ELD making police reports on election rules violation 

Teng said this in his Facebook post, “The Elections Department isn’t the only one who can make police reports. Seeing that the ELD only seems to make reports against online media and opposition supporters, yesterday I made a police report about possible breaches of election advertising rules by the PAP.”

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) also called on the ELD to be fair in its implementation of the cooling-off day rules, noting that the PAP politicians had previously violated the cooling off day rules.

Previously, a Facebook post by Minister Vivian Balakrishnan during Cooling Off Day in the last General Election (GE) raised eyebrows. The Minister clarified that the post was the result of a “bug” and he has asked Facebook to investigate the matter.

The police then confirmed that reports were lodged and they were looking into the matter, however, it was unclear whether it was ELD which made the police report in the first place.

Two alleged breaches

Teng pointed to two incidents which he said were breaches – putting up of flyers as posters in Chong Pang market and hawker centre during the GE2015 period and a banner featuring then PAP-candidate for Bukit Batok Murali Pillai being put up on a town council banner rack in April 2016 during the Bukit Batok by-elections.

Chong Pang flyers

Teng is contesting that the flyers in Chong Pang, which were put up in September 2015 on three hawker stalls and on pillars, breached elections advertising rules as they did not bear the official stamp from the Returning Officer. *Edit on 1 June 12pm: Teng had said that flyers were “all over the hawker centre” and not three hawker stalls as we have written.*

Here are photographs supplied by Teng:

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Teng also wrote to ELD claiming that after speaking to hawkers, the hawkers told him that the flyers were put up by the a “merchants’ association.” *Edit at 1 June 12pm: It was a shopkeeper that told Teng about the merchants’ association, not hawkers.*

He said the ELD did not reply his email – shown below:
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Bukit Batok banner

The second claim of a breach was related to this banner:

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Teng noted that The Online Citizen wrote a report about this banner being put up on a “banner rack of the Resident Committee (RC) Zone 6 at Blk 168 Bukit Batok West Ave 8” and questioned what the rules regarding the use of “RC facilities for partisan purposes” are.

TOC noted that the banner was subsequently taken down and Teng said that TOC informed him that the banner rack belonged to the town council.

Teng wrote another email to ELD asking them to verify if this was a breach of elections advertising and whether ELD would investigate this issue. ELD replied Teng with an email which Teng described as a “non-reply.” The email exchange is below:
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Teng’s Facebook post is below:

In case you cannot see the post, here is what he said:

The Elections Department isn’t the only one who can make police reports.
Seeing that the ELD only seems to make reports against online media and opposition supporters, yesterday I made a police report about possible breaches of election advertising rules by the PAP.

You can see pictures of the police report as well as all accompanying evidence below.
I reported two instances of potential breaches, one during the Bukit Batok by-election and one during the General Election last year.

You might ask why I am reporting these breaches only now, several months after the General Election. Well, I did report them, to ELD. But they didn’t do anything. It was only when I saw the news report on Friday that ELD had made police reports regarding breaches of election advertising rules that I realised I should have contacted the police instead of ELD! It seems that enforcement lies with the police, not ELD.

During the General Election last year, numerous election advertisement flyers published by the PAP were put up all over the Chong Pang market and hawker centre.

Flyers are meant to be distributed. When they are pasted up on walls, they become posters (see pictures below of some of these posters that I took myself.)

You can see in small print in the scan I made of one of the flyers that they were published by the PAP.

The Parliamentary Elections Act (PEA) forbids the displaying of election posters that do not bear the official stamp of the Returning Officer or that have not been lodged with the Returning Officer (see below for the relevant extracts from the PEA.)

The aforementioned posters do not bear any such stamp. Therefore, I believe they were in breach of the PEA.

Furthermore, on the ELD website, there is a list of locations where it is prohibited to display election posters and banners. One of the prohibited locations is “stalls in a hawker centre, food centre, or market” (see below for a screenshot of the list from the ELD website.)
The question then is, how did the posters come to be displayed all over the market and hawker centre?

Some may say that perhaps the hawkers and shopkeepers put up the posters voluntarily. However, the premises of the market and hawker centre are public properties, probably managed by the town council and NEA. Are hawkers and shopkeepers allowed to display election advertising published by political parties on public property?

With regard to the Bukit Batok by-election, on April 30 the following article was posted on The Online Citizen: http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/…/rcs-in-bukit-batok-smc-p…/

The article shows a PAP election banner on what is purportedly an RC banner rack. After the article was posted, the banner was taken down. But going by the dates given in the article, the banner could have been up for two or three days during the campaign period. If the said banner rack indeed belongs to the RC, then there may have been a breach of election rules.
Referring again to the list of prohibited locations for displaying election advertising, one of them is “premises of Community Centres/Clubs and Resident Centres”. I do not know the exact definition of “Resident Centres” but I think this category refers to People’s Association property, since Community Centres are mentioned. RC property is PA property.

There is also a disclaimer at the end of the list of prohibited locations which says that the list is non-exhaustive and includes mainly public properties. RC banner racks are definitely public property.

Update: The TOC editor has informed me that the town council wrote to him saying the banner rack belongs to them. But the same question applies: are town council banner racks allowed for election advertising?

I should note that I had emailed the ELD regarding these potential breaches, both last year and this year. I never received a reply last year. I did receive a reply regarding Bukit Batok, but it was a non-reply which did not answer my questions, as bureaucrats are wont to do. I have posted the emails below together with the other pictures.

I must say that I cannot confirm whether there were indeed breaches of laws but going by what I have shown, there is cause for concern. I have provided all the same evidence you see here to the police. I leave it to them to investigate the matters.

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About Jonathan Lim

Jon is thankful that Singapore is interesting enough to keep a website like Mothership.sg up and running.

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