MAS files police report on false States Times Review story, editor "welcomes libel lawsuit" from PM Lee

Sarawak Report calls STR article "misleading".

Sulaiman Daud | November 09, 2018, 12:51 PM

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has made a police report regarding a story published on anti-establishment website, States Times Review (STR).

On Nov. 9, MAS told Channel NewsAsia that it had filed a report against the author of an online article published on STR on Nov. 5, which it described as false, defamatory, and "impugned its integrity."

According to MAS's statement, the story alleged that Singapore had signed "unfair" agreements with Malaysia in exchange for getting the assistance of Singapore banks to launder money from 1MDB.

Said MAS:

"The article is baseless and defamatory. MAS has placed utmost importance on safeguarding its integrity as a financial regulator, and takes seriously any false allegations to the contrary."

1MDB investigation had never been closed

MAS said the article made false allegations that Singapore only reopened its investigations into 1MDB after the Malaysian general election in May 2018.

That election saw Mahathir Mohamad's Pakatan Harapan coalition replace Najib Razak's Barisan Nasional coalition as the ruling party.

MAS referred to a joint statement it released on June 8, 2018, together with the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Commercial Affairs Department, which stated that it would investigate and new leads or evidence related to 1MDB funds.

This reiterated what MAS had previously announced in its 2016 and 2017 annual report press conferences. MAS added:

"Investigations into 1MDB case had never been closed."

Sarawak Report "disowns" remarks from STR article

The article by STR was published on Nov. 5.

It claimed that the editor of the Sarawak Report had given an interview to "Malaysian media", and from that, STR alleged Singapore would be a "key investigation target".

This was picked up by Malaysian website The Coverage, which repeated the allegations.

On Nov. 7, Singapore's High Commission in Malaysia made a public statement on the story in The Coverage, saying it was false and "clearly libellous".

On Nov. 8, the Sarawak Report posted on its Facebook page, distancing itself from STR's article. It said:

"Misleading article. This article by an anonymously edited website is erroneous.

It claims the editor of SR gave an unspecified 'interview to the Malaysian media' declaring that 'Singapore' is the next target of an unspecified "1MDB investigation".

SR has not given any such interview and has not written on this subject. The article moreover is unclear in its direction and meaning. SR disowns the remarks and wishes the publication to correct the false claim."

And on Nov. 9, the Sarawak Report posted again on its Facebook page, saying:

"Sarawak Report does not make allegations without factual corroboration and should third parties wish to make such allegations it is for them to substantiate them and not to falsely assert that they have derived their statements from Sarawak Report."

You can see the Facebook post in full below:

Founder doubles down

The founder and editor of STR, Alex Tan Zhi Xiang, has taken a different tack from the Sarawak Report.

On Nov. 8, he published another article titled "STR welcomes a libel lawsuit from Lee Hsien Loong."

He said that STR welcomes a libel suit from PM Lee in an "Australian court".

Tan added:

"If the Singapore Prime Minister feels he has been wronged by the allegations, he should rightfully commence legal proceedings right away. Let’s take this a step further: if Lee Hsien Loong does not sue within a week, it only further reinforce the public opinion the Prime Minister has a guilty conscience."

Despite his reference to an Australian court, he also said:

"STR believes in independent and accurate reporting, and as such, if the Prime Minister could deliver a reasonable explanation to the “fake news” above, I am willing to take the first flight home and turn myself in to the Singapore Police."

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Top image adapted from MAS's website and SGReformPartyTV's YouTube video.