On 23 September, the Critical Spectator Facebook page—run by Polish national Michael Petraeus—revealed that he had been investigated by the police for only a week over some Facebook comments.
The page wrote this in the comment section of a TOC Facebook post sharing an article about the seemingly selective persecution of PAP critics, Mr Petraeus revealed his phone were seized for a week during the investigation.
He said in the comment: “I was reported for some Facebook comments in April – that weren’t even about Singapore – and police duly had to investigate me, while seizing my phone for a week to conduct their checks. Such are the rules.”
Previously, TOC has reported on breaches of election rules that the Elections Department (ELD) has seemed to ignore, including the involvement of foreign interference in local elections by the Critical Spectator Facebook page, run by Mr Petraeus.
On 7 July, TOC editor Terry Xu even filed a police report against the page over three posts it had made in relation to the general elections.
In one of his posts on 5 July, Mr Petraeus wrote about his views on why the GST should be raised in Singapore instead of tapping into the national reserves. While in two posts on 6 and 7 July respectively, the Polish national commented on Worker’s Party MP Raeesah Khan. In the first post on 6 July, he compared her case with the PAP’s former candidate Ivan Lim who withdrew his candidacy after a wave of online criticism surfaced about his behaviour at work and during National Service.
In the second post, he criticised Ms Khan’s role model as American Marxist feminist Angela Davis, who he described as one of the most “odious” and “repugnant characters of the American left”.
We note that the Parliamentary Election Act stipulates: “No person — who is not a citizen of Singapore, shall take part in any election activity.”
In fact, the ELD even put out an advisory before the election period on 20 April warning against foreign interference in local elections, saying:
Foreign interference in elections refers to attempts by foreign actors (countries, agencies, people) to assert influence over elections in a sovereign state. In the last few years, there have been many reports of foreign interference in the elections of other countries, e.g. US Presidential Elections (2016), French Presidential Elections (2017), German Federal Elections (2017), US Mid-Term Elections (2018), Italian General Elections (2018). Singapore is not immune, and we need to guard against such nefarious activity as we head towards our own General Election (GE), which must be held by April 2021. Singapore politics should be decided by Singaporeans alone.”
However, it appears that the recent investigation into Critical Spectator was totally unrelated to the report filed by Terry. In fact, Terry notes that the Singapore Police Force (SPF) has not followed up with him on the report he made back in July.
In fact, Critical Spectator basically confirm that it was investigated for a different matter as it noted in a follow up comment, saying: “I was never called up to SPF about any comments about Singapore per se. Someone was offended after I shared a post from Imam Tawhidi and claimed hurt religious feelings.”
Now, the article reference by the TOC Facebook post which Critical Spectator commented on was one that highlighted the seemingly double standards in how Singapore authorities, specifically the ELD, are using public resources to investigate socio-political news site New Naratif’s founder and manager, Dr Thum Ping Tjin, for allegedly breaching election rules during the 2020 general election back in July.
The ELD alleged that New Naratif has published paid advertisements which amounted to the illegal conduct of election activity over the general election period.
The article noted that Dr Thum’s laptop and phone was seized during the course of the investigation last week. TOC also understands from Dr Thum that his devices remain seized and the investigating officer (IO) told him that investigations are still ongoing.
Separately, Terry has had his devices held for up to three months in recent investigations. In fact, Terry phone is still in police custody and has been since March, in regards to investigations on a different case.
What this shows is a stark difference in how local activists and media are treated by the authorities, where their devices are held for months while pro-establishment page Critical Spectator, run by a Polish national, gets his devices back in just a week.
Comparing the two investigations—of Critical Spectator run by a foreign national and that of New Naratif run by a Singaporean—is there a double standard in how these rules are being applied by the Singapore authorities?