M'sian politician campaigning in S'pore – why only an "assessment" by S'pore police?

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On 16 May, filmmaker Mr Martyn See filed a police report about the alleged electioneering activities of Malaysian politician, Mr Abdul Ghani Othman, on Singapore soil. Mr Ghani, who was the Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) of Johor, was reported to have crossed the Causeway on 2 May, during the height of the Malaysian General Election, to “canvass for votes” among Malaysians in Singapore.MalaysianProtest

“I am appalled that Dato’ Ghani was allowed to import Malaysian politics into Singapore,” Mr See wrote in his police report, “and in the process promoted his political cause in the full presence of our media. I hereby file an official complaint against Dato’ Hajji Abdul Ghani Bin Othman for violation the Public Order Act. Members of the media who had knowingly contributed in the promotion of his cause should also be investigated.”

Mr See’s allegations seem to be supported by local media reports here in Singapore.

Channel Newsasia said:

“Meanwhile, outgoing Johor Chief Minister Abdul Ghani Othman on Thursday took his electoral fight to Singapore – by taking a bus down to meet factory workers in the Republic.”

 The TODAY newspaper reported:

“Johor Mentri Besar Abdul Ghani Othman yesterday took his campaign across the Causeway when he made a surprise trip on board the Causeway Link public bus from Gelang Patah to Jurong East Bus Terminal.”

 The Straits Times said:

“Mr Abdul Ghani took a bus on Thursday morning to Singapore to experience what it was like for Malaysians who travel daily to the city state, and to canvass for votes.”

 The reports seem to be quite unequivocal in their assertions that Mr Ghani, accompanied by supporters, did indeed campaign in Singapore, which may have contravened Singapore’s Public Order Act (POA), mentioned by Mr See in his police statement.

However, the joint-statement by the Ministry for Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) on 17 May, dismissed Mr See’s report.

The two-paragraph statement by the ministries reads [emphasis added]:

“The Singapore Police Force confirms that a report has been lodged regarding Mr Ghani’s visit to Singapore on 2 May 2013. The Police’s assessment is that no offence is disclosed from this report. The acts referred to in the report such as arriving in Singapore, having breakfast or speaking to reporters do not constitute an offence.  In the case of Mr Ghani, it would appear that there was no campaigning, although some members of his team were wearing campaign shirts.

 “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has registered with the Malaysian High Commission in Singapore that campaigning activities by foreigners are not allowed in Singapore.  In particular, the wearing of campaign shirts by some of Mr Ghani’s team in Singapore during the Malaysian General Election period could be misconstrued and such cases should not recur.”

 It is commendable that the authorities acted in such a swift fashion, issuing the statement just a day after Mr See made his police report.

However, there are a few points which bear questioning.

The ministries’ statement seems to be based entirely on an “assessment” of Mr See’s police statement, instead of an actual investigation into Mr Ghani’s activities during his visit here.

Why did the Police not conduct an investigation instead?

There does seem to be grounds to believe that Mr Ghani had indeed campaigned on Singapore soil. For example:

  1. At least 3 local media outlets here reported Mr Ghani’s intention to campaign in Singapore, and even report that he had indeed campaigned whilst here, as the Channel Newsasia report above shows.
  2. Mr Ghani was accompanied by supporters who were wearing “campaign shirts”, according to the MHA/MFA statement itself.
  3. The news had reported Malaysian opposition politician Mr Lim Kit Siang saying that “he might match his opponent’s footsteps by taking his campaign for the Gelang Patah seat to Singapore, home to thousands of Malaysian voters. “Since he has taken this path, I am considering it too,” he had told the media.

While there is no “smoking gun” to confirm that Mr Ghani had in fact campaigned in Singapore, the evidence would suggest that an investigation is warranted by the S’pore Police, instead of an “assessment” based on what Mr See had written in his police report.

It is puzzling how the ministries could thus conclude that “it would appear that there was no campaigning, although some members of his team were wearing campaign shirts.”

On the contrary, what would appear to have taken place is that Mr Ghani made plans to campaign in Singapore, and had made this known to the media and public, and in fact “took his electoral fight to Singapore – by taking a bus down to meet factory workers in the Republic”, accompanied by supporters wearing “campaign shirts”, and met with Malaysians working in Singapore to “canvass for votes”.

One would imagine that the media and reporters would also have video and audio recordings of Mr Ghani’s visit.

As such, the police should interview the news media outlets and the reporters involved who had reported that Mr Ghani had taken his electoral fight to Singapore.

Why the need to rush out a statement barely a day after the police report was filed by Mr See, and to dismiss the report with an “assessment” of the police statement instead of an actual investigation into the alleged illegal activity?

Perhaps the police should clarify.

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