Facebook Singapore; Moneycontrol

In a response to state media Straits Times over their decision to decline the Singapore dictatorship’s request to ban States Times Review, a Facebook spokesperson clarified that the social media company deletes only proven falsehoods, not alleged falsehoods:

“We haveĀ a responsibility to handle any government request to restrict alleged misinformation carefully and thoughtfully, and that this is consistent with its approach to government requests elsewhere. Facebook does not have a policy that prohibits alleged falsehoods, apart from in situations where this content has the potential to contribute to imminent violence or physical harm.”

Singapore’s independent news blog States Times Review was threatened by the Singapore government after it publishes an article pointing out the “secret deals” between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and former Malaysian PM Najib Razak. The Nov 5 article, titled “Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB’s investigation target”, wrote that the former Malaysian PM signed two unfair bilateral deals with Lee Hsien Loong in exchange for money laundering stolen state funds in Singapore.

States Times Review pointed out that in the period between 2011 and 2015, stolen 1MDB funds amounting to S$3.7 billion had already made its way to eight Singapore banks, including state-owned banks DBS, Standard Chartered, UOB and OCBC.

At the same 4-year period, the former Malaysian PM signed a water treaty deal that saw Singapore pay only 3 sen (S$0.01) per thousand gallons of raw water from the Malaysian state of Johor. This price is 15 times cheaper than the 50 sen (S$0.16) rate that fellow Malaysian state Melaka was paying.

Aside from the unfair water treaty, Najib Razak signed the High Speed Rail project when the country was already in a trillion RM (S$333 billion) national debt.

States Times Review also pointed out that the Singapore Police was aware of suspicious transactions at Swiss bank BSI as early as 2011, but the authorities only took actions in 2015 after independent investigations from US and Switzerland traced the stolen funds to Singapore. The popular Singapore news blog also reasoned that it is impossible that the S$3.7 billion of funds from Malaysia were transferred into the country without the Singapore authorities’ knowledge and subtle approval, which could only come from the dictator Prime Minister himself.

The STR report was widely covered in Malaysia, Hong Kong and China, which led to a knee-jerk response from the Singapore High Commission in Malaysia declaring it as fake news and libellous.

STR owner Alex Tan then challenged the Singapore government to contest the content of its article and sue him in an Australian court, which saw no rely from the government. The Singapore government then activated the Monetary Authority of Singapore to lodge a Singapore police report, but no complainant report was made in Australia.

On the Nov 9, STR received an email from the Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) demanding the Nov 5 article to be taken down. Alex Tan wrote a two-word response (explicit content warning): “f*** you”, then reproduced the confidential letter in an article declaring that he would refuse to comply. The IMDA had also called Facebook up demanding the article to be taken out, only to be rejected by the social media company.

The IMDA was apparently angered and ordered an immediate ban in the same evening, without contesting the content of the offending article. Alex Tan then took a tactical decision making himself a martyr announcing that the website will shut down, resulting in strong responses from the public condemning the government’s dictatorial behaviour of not going through the legal process getting a court order.