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TOC charges: Government needs to take ‘clear stand’ against allegations, says Amrin

SINGAPORE — The Government needs to take a “clear stand” against those who put forth allegations and accusations under the cover of free speech, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin told reporters on Wednesday (Dec 12).

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin responding to a question on whether the Government was being too heavy-handed in dealing with Mr Terry Xu, chief editor of socio-political site The Online Citizen (TOC), and TOC writer De Costa Daniel Augustin.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin responding to a question on whether the Government was being too heavy-handed in dealing with Mr Terry Xu, chief editor of socio-political site The Online Citizen (TOC), and TOC writer De Costa Daniel Augustin.

SINGAPORE — The Government needs to take a “clear stand” against those who put forth allegations and accusations under the cover of free speech, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin told reporters on Wednesday (Dec 12).

Mr Amrin was responding to a question on whether the Government was being too heavy-handed in dealing with Mr Terry Xu, chief editor of socio-political site The Online Citizen (TOC), and TOC writer De Costa Daniel Augustin.

The police said in a news release on Wednesday that Mr Xu, 36, and Mr De Costa, 35, will be charged in court a day later with criminal defamation for a TOC article in September alleging corruption within the highest ranks of Government. Mr De Costa, the alleged author of the article, also faces an additional charge of unauthorised access to computer material under the Computer Misuse Act

Mr Amrin said: “Let’s look at the context of what this is about. This is about… allegations, which go to the core of the integrity (and) reputation of (our) leaders and the Government.

“It is one thing to criticise the Government — in fact this happens all the time. It is important to do it, but it is not okay to put out… allegations… accusations (and) claims, under the cover of free speech.”

The TOC article, which was taken down last month, had referred to comments by Mountbatten Member of Parliament Seah Kian Peng and Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on some Singaporean activists who met Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in late August.

Mr De Costa is believed to have logged into the email account of someone called “Willy Sum” and sent his article, titled “The Take Away from Seah Kian Ping’s Facebook Post”, to TOC.

Its author claimed that there was “corruption at the highest echelons”.

According to the police, Mr Xu published the article – which misspelled Mr Seah’s name – without verifying the identity of the author.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Mr Amrin noted that this was not the first time TOC had published articles written by Mr De Costa under the pseudonym of “Willy Sum”.

He added that the lack of verification was “troubling”, as “an innocent man was almost implicated and Mr De Costa could have escaped identification and accountability”.

While the police did not elaborate on the relationship between Mr De Costa and “Willy Sum”, they said investigations suggest that Mr De Costa had sent the article to TOC using the latter’s email account without his consent.

After the police report was lodged in October, the police searched the homes of “Willy Sum” and Mr Xu, and found evidence suggesting that the article was not written by “Willy Sum”.

While Mr Amrin declined to reveal details of “Willy Sum”, or comment on whether this was an example of deliberate online falsehood, he said that there were criminal defamation charges involved, and “there may be other charges against Mr De Costa which may be mentioned” on Thursday.

For the charge of criminal defamation, Mr Xu and Mr De Costa could each be jailed for a maximum of two years and/or fined. If found guilty of unauthorised access to computer material under the Computer Misuse Act, Mr De Costa could be jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to S$5,000.

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