Anti-Covid-19-vaccine group founder, husband under police probe for allegedly instigating people to overwhelm public hotlines
SINGAPORE — The founder of an anti-vaccine group and her husband are understood to be under a police probe for their alleged involvement in instigating others to call and overwhelm public tlines that help the public with Covid-19 issues.
- The police are probing a couple for allegedly instigating others to overwhelm public phone lines meant for Covid-19 matters
- The pair are Ms Iris Koh, founder of an anti-vaccine group, and her husband Raymond Ng, TODAY understands
- In October, the duo allegedly incited more than 2,000 members of a Telegram group to call the hotlines
- They were reportedly instructed to give feedback on the stricter Covid-19 rules for unvaccinated persons
- Group members were also encouraged to call the hotlines again the next day
SINGAPORE — The founder of an anti-vaccine group and her husband are understood to be under a police probe for their alleged involvement in instigating others to call and overwhelm public phone lines that help the public with Covid-19 issues.
In a statement on Thursday (Nov 25), the police said that they received a report on Oct 18 alleging that the duo had incited more than 2,000 members of a Telegram group to overwhelm public hotlines by giving their feedback on stricter Covid-19 regulations that apply to unvaccinated persons in public places.
The police did not name the pair but TODAY understands that they are Ms Iris Koh, 45, founder of the Healing The Divide group, and her husband Raymond Ng, 48.
They are said to have incited members of the group to call phone lines including the quality service or feedback hotline of the Ministry of Health (MOH), a hotline for the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the 24-hour National Care Hotline, which provides the public with emotional support during the pandemic.
The police said: “The message (to the Telegram chat group) 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.”
Members of the chat group were also encouraged to call the hotlines again the next day to seek feedback on the calls they made earlier.
The police said that the alleged incitement to overwhelm public phone lines had the potential to obstruct the work of public servants.
Thus, in consultation with the Attorney-General’s Chambers, they are investigating the pair over an alleged offence of abetment by instigating people to obstruct public servants in the discharge of their public functions.
Checks by TODAY on Healing The Divide’s Telegram channel found that there was an announcement on Oct 11 encouraging its members to call the three hotlines.
Two days earlier, the Ministry of Health had announced that from Oct 13, those who are not fully vaccinated would not be allowed entry into malls, large standalone stores, attractions, hawker centres and coffee shops, so as to protect them and reduce the strain on the healthcare system.
Healing The Divide’s website states that it brings together Singaporeans concerned about Covid-19 vaccines.
On Wednesday evening, Ms Koh took to the Telegram channel to say that she would be going to the Bedok police station at 10.30am on Thursday to be investigated.
On Thursday morning, Ms Koh and Mr Ng posted photos of themselves outside the police station.
After being investigated, Ms Koh updated the channel and wrote: “I'm out. They were investigating me for the ‘flooding’ comment.
“They wanted to take my phone. I said they would need to go through my lawyer to take anything.”
Those who obstruct public servants in the discharge of their public functions could face a jail term of up to three months or a fine of up to S$2,500, or both.
The offence of abetting such an offence by the public generally, or by any number or class of persons exceeding 10, is punishable with a jail term of up to five years or a fine, or both.
The police added that they would not hesitate to act against irresponsible persons who disrupt and overwhelm essential call centre operations or encourage others to do so.
“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,” they said, adding that in some cases, such calls may also prevent those in need from getting timely critical help.
“Offenders will be dealt with firmly and severely in accordance with the law.”