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Cooling-Off Day breaches serious, says ELD in refuting criticism

SINGAPORE — Amid a chorus of voices — including that of the Workers’ Party (WP) — expressing concern over how the police is investigating alleged violations of Cooling-Off Day regulations in the Bukit Batok by-election, the authorities said they had observed “what appeared to be deliberate and serious breaches” of the rules.

Bukit Batok by-elections campaign posters

Bukit Batok by-elections campaign posters

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SINGAPORE — Amid a chorus of voices — including that of the Workers’ Party (WP) — expressing concern over how the police is investigating alleged violations of Cooling-Off Day regulations in the Bukit Batok by-election, the authorities said they had observed “what appeared to be deliberate and serious breaches” of the rules. 

The Elections Department (ELD) had filed police reports against former political detainee Teo Soh Lung and blogger Roy Ngerng. Both were accused of publishing several online articles and postings that may have breached rules against election advertising on May 6, the Cooling-off Day for the Bukit Batok polls. A police report was also made against socio-political website The Independent Singapore.

On Tuesday (May 31), lawyer Choo Zheng Xi said on Facebook that police officers had visited Ms Teo’s home and seized her electronic devices including her mobile phone, desktop and laptop computers, a move that Mr Choo described as “extreme”. Lawyer Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss also posted videos of police officers at Ms Teo’s house on Tuesday.

In a statement on Wednesday, the WP noted that public records showed those who were reported for similar violations in the past did not undergo lengthy interviews or face searches and seizures of their personal equipment.

“We urge the authorities to ensure that consistency and proportionality are applied to all investigations, as these are key to maintaining confidence in Singapore’s law enforcement organisations and legal system,” the WP said.

Responding to media queries, the ELD and the police said in a joint statement that in previous breaches of Cooling-Off Day rules, the approach was to give warnings, and some of the breaches were found to be unintentional. 

But in the recent by-election, the authorities “observed what appeared to be deliberate and serious breaches of the rules”, despite reminders issued by the ELD on the rules. 

They also revealed that The Independent Singapore had continued to post material that broke election rules “even after receiving a specific reminder from the Assistant Returning Officer not to do so”. Given “the blatant disregard” for the rules, the officer decided to make police reports, they said. 

As part of the investigations, the electronic devices used to publish the postings need to be examined, and as such, they were seized, the authorities added. 

In a comment posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday night, People’s Action Party Member of Parliament Tan Wu Meng pointed out that WP Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera has been linked to The Independent. Mr Perera has said that he is a minority shareholder of the site. 

“Given this, WP should be aware that it could be seen as having an interest in the outcome of the investigation, and that every effort should be made by WP to avoid the impression that WP is trying to interfere with the investigation,” Dr Tan said, adding the law should be allowed to take its course.

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