The most shocking part of the Manpower Minister Josephine Teo’s POFMA action against the SDP involves this statement in the MOM’s affidavit:
“Counsel will elaborate further on the legal position: what has been set out is, in the Minister’s view, the correct, reasonable interpretation, and there is no other reasonable interpretation of the Relevant Sentence. The Minister has been further advised however, that the legal position is that, as long as what has been set out is one reasonable interpretation (amongst several possible interpretations) such that it could be said that some people (at the very least) would have adopted that reasonable interpretation, then the CD can be issued if that reasonable interpretation is false.”
“I did a double take when I first read it, I thought it was a prank,” Dr Chee said in court this afternoon. “This position defies comprehension.”
How does one justify the use of the Minister’s opinion and interpretations to charge the SDP with making a “false statement of fact”.
Dr Chee had to take the court through the meaning of the word “fact”. Facts have actual existence. They can be objectively verified and are not in dispute. They are not open to interpretation or opinion.
He said, “I’m sure you’ve heard of the adage ‘you are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.’”
So, when Ms Josephine Teo says that the SDP has made a false statement of fact, what she is saying is that the SDP’s statement is indisputably, demonstrably wrong. That false statement is not open to interpretation.
He gave the example of the SDP making the statement that the earth is flat. The MOM can say that this is a false statement of fact because it can be demonstrated that the earth is globular, not flat, and there won’t be any dispute.
But what the MOM won’t say is that “in the Minister’s view” the earth is round. That’s a ludicrous statement to make, Dr Chee said.
The fact that MOM has to qualify that it is the Minister’s view, that hers is a correct, reasonable “interpretation” and so on, shows how ridiculous the MOM’s case is.
“Has it come to a point that a Minister’s opinion and interpretation of a statement can dictate what is fact and what is not?” Dr Chee asked.
The AGC also said that there may be “several possible interpretations” of a statement that “some people would have adopted”. How many is some? 3, 10, 100?
Falsehoods don’t rely on opinions or interpretations of “some” people. They are indisputably wrong and untrue.
In the present case, the entire day was spent disputing statistical data by both sides. This cannot, by any stretch of the imagine, qualify as a falsehood, much less a deliberate one necessitating the application of POFMA.
“Your Honour,” Dr Chee summed up, “this is a court of law, and a court of law is where reason thrives. For surely, when reason sleeps, absurdities arise. Reason is based on evidence and evidence on facts, not opinions and interpretations – especially the interpretations of a partisan-political player.”
This is the clearest example yet of how the POFMA is being abused.
Earlier, the SDP applied to convert the Originating Summons into a Writ so that there can be discovery of documents and MOM officials, including Minister Teo, can be called to the witness stand and be cross-examined.
Justice Ang Cheng Hock, however, disallowed the application.
The SDP argued that it is concerned about of job security of Singaporeans and unfair competition of jobs from foreign PMETs.
The hearing continues tomorrow.