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SDP ordered to correct Facebook posts and articles on PMET employment under POFMA

The Independent logo The Independent 14/12/2019 Jewel Stolarchuk
Josephine Teo, Chee Soon Juan looking at the camera © The Independent Singapore

The POFMA Office revealed today (14 Dec) that it has directed the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) to correct two Facebook posts and an article on its website that pertain to manpower issues.

POFMA stands for the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act – an anti-fake news law that was passed in parliament on 8 May 2019, after a heated debate that took place over two days.

The new law, which provides the government with powers to act against online falsehoods to protect public interest, gives ministers the authority to determine what is an online falsehood and whether to take action.

The POFMA Office, which administers correction orders, said in a press release: “The Minister for Manpower (MOM) has instructed the POFMA Office to issue three Correction Directions (CD) to the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), on the false statements made in two Facebook posts and a website article by SDP.

“The Correction Directions require SDP to carry in full, the correction notice at the top of both the Facebook posts, as well as the website article.”

In a separate press statement released today, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that SDP’s posts and article on Singapore’s population policy contained“a misleading graphic and false statement of facts,”

The SDP posts and articles that have been flagged under POFMA have to do with the issue of the displacement of local workers by foreigners.

Calling for greater protection for Singaporeans in the labour market, the SDP said that it does not think it is a coincidence that the unemployment rate for local Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs) has increased as the number of foreign PMETs has also increased.

On 2 Dec, the SDP had published a sponsored Facebook post with a graphic showing plunging local PMET employment. This post and an earlier social media post published on 30 Nov linked to an article on the SDP website which asserted that the SDP’s Singaporeans First policy proposal “comes amidst a rising proportion of Singaporean PMETs getting retrenched.”

Refuting the statement that local PMET retrenchment is rising, the MOM said that the number of retrenched local PMETs and the number of local PMETs retrenched as a share of all local PMET employees has declined since 2015. MOM said:

“The number of local PMETs retrenched in 2018 was, in fact, the lowest since 2014. Local PMETs retrenched as a proportion of all local PMET employees, has also declined since 2015.

“The Singapore economy is continuing to create jobs despite the economic headwinds. Local PMET employment has increased consistently. There is no rising trend of retrenchment, whether amongst PMETs or otherwise.”

MOM also said that the graphic the SDP published was wrong and that the ministry’s Comprehensive Labour Force Survey shows that local PMET employment has risen steadily since 2015.

The Government’s Factually website also issued a clarification on Foreign PMETs and said that the “number of Employment Pass (EP) holders has historically fluctuated depending on economic conditions. EP qualifying salaries are also regularly adjusted to safeguard employment of local PMETs.”

It pointed out that the number of foreign EP holders has remained stable while local PMET employment has continued to rise.

Noting that it is understandable that some Singaporeans would feel anxious about the job market given the current economic climate, MOM said:

“This makes it all the more critical that public debate on the important issue of jobs is based on accurate facts, and not distortions or falsehoods.

“These false and misleading statements by the SDP have a singular objective – to stoke fear and anxiety among local PMETs. It is important to set the facts straight so that Singaporeans are not misled.”

MOM said that the correction directions “will require SDP to carry a correction notice stating that its sponsored Facebook post, the post on its Facebook page, as well as the article on its website, contain a misleading graphic and false statement of facts.”

The SDP has told the local press that it is looking into the directions.

This is the third time that the POFMA Office has issued correction directions since POFMA came into effect in October. The Government invoked the law earlier against Progress Singapore Party (PSP) member Brad Bowyer and the States Times Review.

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