The police said in a statement today (Nov. 25) that it is investigating a 48-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman for their alleged involvement in instigating others to call and overwhelm public hotlines.
These hotlines were meant to help the public with Covid-19 issues, along with providing other services, and included the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Quality Service/Feedback hotline, the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s (MSF) hotline and the National CARE Hotline.
Mothership understands that the man and woman are Raymond Ng, and his wife Iris Koh.
Koh is the founder of Singapore's "Healing the Divide" group, while Ng has said that he is a volunteer with the group.
Police received report on Oct. 18
The police said it received a report on Oct. 18, 2021, alleging that the duo had incited more than 2,000 members in a Telegram group to overwhelm public hotlines through sharing their feedback on the stricter Covid-19 measures for unvaccinated people in public places.
The message purportedly claimed that the Government was seeking “nationwide ground feedback on the new measures”, and that the public should call in to the MOH hotline, the MSF hotline and the National CARE Hotline, and demand that their feedback gets pushed up to the respective call centre managers, said the police in their statement.
The members were also encouraged to call the hotlines again the following day, to seek feedback on the calls they had made earlier, the police added.
The police also provided details of the alleged offence being investigated:
"As the alleged incitement to overwhelm public hotlines has the potential to obstruct the work of public servants, the police, in consultation with the Attorney- General’s Chambers, are investigating the man and the woman for an alleged offence of abetment by instigation of persons to obstruct public servants in the discharge of their public functions under Section 186, read with Section 117 of the Penal Code."
The police said that these public hotlines are important channels for Singaporeans to seek help, and a surge in needless and malicious calls will lengthen waiting times and frustrate genuine callers.
"In some cases, such calls may also prevent those in need from receiving timely critical assistance. Offenders will be dealt with firmly and severely in accordance with the law," it added.
Koh and Ng update followers after interview with police
Koh posted videos and photos of herself and Ng after the duo were interviewed by police, to update her followers and thank them for their support.
Ng also provided an update in a Facebook post, saying:
"So far the police officers are professional and polite. They are just doing their jobs.
All these investigations are going to make us stronger."
Koh previously told The Straits Times (ST) that she was overwhelmed by the many calls for help when several hundred people joined her group after stricter vaccination-differentiated measures were announced.
Speaking to ST, she acknowledged that "asking people to flood the call centre for no genuine reason is wrong."
However, she explained:
“I gave the numbers because I felt they would be better equipped to deal with the inquiries which I don’t have the answers for.”
Message still available on group
As of Nov. 25, a copy of the message can still be found in the "Healing the Divide Discussion" Telegram group, which currently has over 4,000 members.
The message reads:
The Government is seeking nationwide ground feedback on the new measures announced over the weekend. This is an opportunity to get locals feedback and thoughts on this.
Feel free to give your feedback and flood their hotlines. Please share and do it!
MOH Quality Service/Feedback Hotline: 1800 225 4122
National Care Hotline: 1800 202 6868
Ministry of Social and Family Development Hotline: 1800 111 2222
Get people to demand this gets pushed up to the call centre manager. And ask for them to revert back. Otherwise call again tmr and ask for any feedback. Get the names of the operator one spoke with and ask whether has any feedback been given to higher ups.
Let's do our part."
Another message with nearly identical phrasing, sent by the group admins on Oct. 11, is also still available in the group, though the word "flood" has been replaced with "call".
Koh told Mothership that "the word 'flood' was only used for a few min[utes]" before it was changed.
Top image via video on Healing the Divide Telegram group
Follow and listen to our podcast here