The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) will contact Manpower Minister Josephine Teo to cancel or vary the Correction Direction issued under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Act (POFMA).
When asked if they would be making the official application, an SDP spokesperson told Mothership in an email reply that they could confirm they would be sending the statement "shortly."
Application for cancellation of POFMA's Correction Direction
Section 13 of the POFMA regulations allow for an application to be made to cancel or vary Correction Directions issued under POFMA.
Once the application with its supporting documents is submitted, the Minister has two working days to issue a notice of his or her decision.
However, if the Minister doesn't issue a decision, the application is treated as refused.
You can refer to this link to find out more information on applying to cancel a POFMA Direction or Remedial Order.
Defending their claims
Teo invoked POFMA on Dec. 14, 2019 to issue Correction Directions against two Facebook posts and one website post by the SDP.
But on Jan. 2, the SDP presented a defence of the claims they made. In a public statement published on their website, the SDP said:
"The SDP calls on Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo to retract the POFMA Correction Directions she issued to the party on 14 December 2019 and issue an immediate, unambiguous and public apology over the matter.
This is because the SDP's statements in the three posts which the Minister cited are, in fact, true and correct."
Wrangle over statistics
The heart of the issue is supposedly the misinterpretation of Professionals, Mmanagers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs) employment statistics by the SDP.
The SDP claimed that local PMET unemployment in Singapore had gone up over the years.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) rebutted this and produced statistics to show that the number of retrenched local PMETs has declined over the years.
1. Retrenchment or unemployment?
SDP used the term "retrenchment" in website article, not Facebook posts
First, the SDP objected to MOM's use of the word "retrenchment". Said the SDP:
"In its Correction Direction, MOM said that we had referred to the fact that "Local PMET retrenchment has been increasing" (emphasis added).
Our FB post clearly said "unemployment" but MOM changed it to "retrenchment" – two different subjects – and then accused us of making a "false statement of fact"."
"MOM substituted our word "unemployment" in our post to "retrenchment" and then accused us of posting a falsehood. This is clearly an abuse of the law."
It's true that the SDP does not use the word "retrenchment" in either of their Facebook posts subject to POFMA.
However, MOM's reference to "retrenchment", which you can read on government fact-checker site Factually, actually refers to the SDP's website article, not its Facebook posts.
It also said that both Facebook posts linked back to the article.
MOM referred to SDP's website article, not Facebook posts
The article on June 8 said: "The SDP's proposal comes amidst a rising proportion of Singapore PMETs getting retrenched."
And this is what MOM said:
"The article on the SDP’s website titled, “SDP Population Policy: Hire S’poreans First, Retrench S’poreans last”, contains the statement: “The SDP’s proposal comes amidst a rising proportion of Singaporean PMETs getting retrenched”.
This statement is also wrong. There is no rising trend of local PMET retrenchments."
Under Falsehood 2, MOM again refers to the website, and said:
"The SDP website states that the party’s “proposal comes amidst a rising proportion of Singaporean PMETs getting retrenched”. This statement is false."
2. Retrenched PMETs as a proportion of all local retrenched workers
The SDP also maintained that their statement, the "rising proportion of Singaporean PMETs getting retrenched", is factual.
They said that this is true as it referred to retrenched local PMETs as a proportion of all local retrenched workers.
"However, Ms Teo cited a different statistic in her Correction Direction: Local PMETs retrenched as a proportion of all local PMET employees. She then said that this data did not show a rising trend and labelled the SDP's statement as false."
In MOM's correction, three statements were made under "Falsehood 2."
- 2(a) There has been no rising trend of local retrenchments since 2015.
- 2(b) There has been no rising trend of local PMET retrenchment since 2015.
- 2(c) The number of local PMETs retrenched as a share of all local PMET employees has also declined since 2015.
SDP: "Two separate and distinct sets of information."
SDP seemed to be referring to 2(c), which does not show local retrenched PMETs as a proportion of all local retrenched workers.
Said the SDP:
"As one can see, the SDP's post and MOM's statement are based on two separate and distinct sets of information – both of which are true depending on which denominator is used."
3. 2010 or 2015?
The SDP also objected to MOM's statement that there is no rising trend of retrenchment, whether among PMETs or otherwise.
The SDP included a graph based on MOM's data to support their claim:
The SDP said that "linear regressional analysis produced a best-fit line through the data points indicated by the red line", adding that the rising trend is "clear and unmistakable".
While SDP's graphs start in 2010, MOM's graphs start in 2015.
Here's one to illustrate that there "has been no rising trend of local PMET retrenchment since 2015."
SDP: MOM gets an "F"
SDP said that POFMA was intended to prevent deliberate online falsehoods, not disagreements over use of statistics.
SDP claimed that its three posts could not be considered falsehoods "by any stretch of the imagination."
It added: "MOM's lack of intellectual rigour in presenting its case is regrettable. A student presenting such work would get an F grade."
MOM asks SDP to follow process under POFMA
In response, an MOM spokesperson said on Jan 2:
"In the Correction Directions (CDs) issued by POFMA Office, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) was informed that they can apply to the Minister to vary or cancel the CDs.
It had been earlier reported by Lianhe Zaobao that SDP intended to apply to cancel the CDs. However, the Ministry of Manpower has not received any application from the SDP to vary or cancel the CDs. If SDP takes the position that the CDs were wrongly issued, there is a process under POFMA for them to follow.
The facts remain that SDP published specific falsehoods.
For details, please refer to https://www.gov.sg/factually/content/corrections-on-falsehoods-posted-by-SDP."
Top image from SDP.