The news reported today that the police has issued a “stern warning” to the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and the Straits Times’ editor, Warren Fernandez.
The warning is the result of a 5-month investigation by the police into the conduct of an election poll by the Straits Times during the Punggol East by-election in January this year which is against election laws in Singapore.
In 2011, blogger Joseph Ong from the Temasek Review blog asked readers to post their vote choices on the Facebook page of the blog on Polling Day during the general election that year. Ong was arrested 3 months later and eventually was also given a warning by the police.
The outcomes of the two apparently similar cases – both given warnings – are perhaps no surprise.
What is worth noting is, however, the fact that one was arrested while the other was not.
At the time of writing, the Attorney General Chamber’s website has not uploaded the warning letter it had given to Warren Fernandez. When the AGC similarly warned filmmaker Lynn Lee for “having committed contempt of court” in another case, it published a write-up about the matter. (See here.)
So for now, it remains unclear why Joseph Ong was arrested while Warren Fernandez was not.
The one who was arrested, besides having to be handcuffed (I presume), also had it reported in the media, particularly the press, and thus had his name dragged through the mud, as it were. It is most unfair.
It would be good if the AGC could explain this so that Singaporeans can understand how our laws work.
As I wrote in an earlier article, trust in our public institution is important, including for the administration of justice in Singapore. Any public perception that the law is selectively applied, or ambiguous, will lead to the erosion of trust in the law itself and/or those who have authority to enforce it.
It would be most unfair to our law enforcement officers and agencies if the public should perceive that there is bias in how the law is applied.
I urge the AGC to explain the apparent disparity in the police’s treatment of the Joseph Ong case and that involving Warren Fernandez.