Singapore invokes fake news law against Malaysian rights group, media

UNTV News   •   January 22, 2020   •   177

Two men are seen using their mobile phones in Singapore, 09 May 2019. EPA-EFE FILE/WALLACE WOON

Singapore’s government on Wednesday invoked its fake news law against what it claims are “preposterous allegations” by a Malaysian human rights organization that denounced “brutal and unlawful” execution methods in the city-state.

Minister of Home Affairs K Shanmugam instructed the Protection From Online Falsehoods And Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office to issue a correction direction against Lawyers for Liberty’s (LFL) online statement, as well as journalist Kirsten Han’s Facebook post sharing the statement, The Online Citizen’s web article and Yahoo Singapore’s Facebook post which shared an article, the home affairs ministry said.

“They will be required to carry a correction notice alongside their posts or articles, stating that their posts or articles contain falsehoods,” POFMA said.

In a Jan. 16 statement, LFL said Changi prison officials were “given special training” to carry out a procedure in the event that the rope breaks during a hanging.

The procedure involved kicking the back of the neck of the prisoner in order to break it and carried out to be consistent with death by hanging, it said, adding that officers were told to kick no more than twice so that it would not be detected in the event of an autopsy.

LFL said the information came from a former Singapore Prison Services officer who had served in the execution chamber and was prepared to testify, and said the method “could not have been done without the knowledge and approval of the Home Minister and government.”

The home affairs ministry said the LFL statement contains “untrue, baseless and preposterous allegations,” and that judicial executions are carried out in “strict compliance with the law,” in the presence of a doctor and vetted by a coroner.

It added that “the rope used for judicial executions has never broken before” and “prison officers certainly do not receive any ‘special training to carry out the brutal execution method’ as alleged.”

Journalist Han confirmed receiving the correction direction, saying she has been given until 8 am on Thursday to comply.

“I’ll be using the rest of the time given under the Correction Direction to decide how I should proceed,” she said on her social media accounts.

She added that after the LFL statement had been published, she had sent two requests to the prison service for response, but had not received a reply.

The Online Citizen said on Facebook it had “filed an application to the minister to cancel the direction. The minister has three days to consider the application before TOC can take the matter to the court.”

The law came into effect in October last year and correction directions have been issued against several people or entities since.

Under the law, Singapore can order what it considers “falsehoods” to be taken down from websites or ask for corrections. They can also order tech companies to block accounts.

The law received widespread criticism over fears it would be used to curb free speech. EFE-EPA

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Filipinos in Singapore cope with work adjustments amid coronavirus crisis

Marje Pelayo   •   February 20, 2020

SINGAPORE – Employers in the city-state are making arrangements with their workers to reduce the risk of community transmission of the deadly coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Filipino domestic helper Analyn Baculinao said her employer has asked her to just stay at home even on her rest day so as not to contract the disease.

Household workers in Singapore are known for rest-day gatherings especially during Sundays.

Umpisa po noong naglabas ng advisory ang Ministry of Manpower tungkol sa domestic helper naging aware din po ang amo ko, kinausap niya ako na kung pwede huwag muna akong lumabas (Since the Ministry of Manpower issued an advisory regarding domestic helpers, my employer became aware of the situation and asked me if I could just stay at home),” Analyn told UNTV News.

“Huwag muna ako mag take ng day off kasi daw pag nag day off ako mag te-take ako ng bus, mag-e-mrt. Kaya super aware ang amo ko kaya sabi niya hanggang hindi okay hindi ka muna lalabas (She appealed that I should not take a day off for now because if I do, I would ride a bus, the MRT. My employer is aware (of the risk) that’s why she has asked me to stay indoors while the situation is not okay),” she added.

Jorge Araza, meanwhile, has no other choice but to extend his working hours as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Currently, he has to work 14 hours straight in a day because most of his Chinese office mates are under quarantine after coming from a vacation in mainland China.

“Lahat ng worker na galing sa China, quarantine ng 14 days bago sila pumasok sa site. Tapos ang mga staff naman, ang meeting namin sa mga consultant, online na ginaganap para maiwasan ang virus (All workers who returned from China are under 14-days quarantine that’s before they’ll be allowed to come to the site for work. Then, staff meetings with consultants are now being done online to prevent the spread of the virus),” Jorge, a mechanical and electrical supervisor, explained.

“Ang epekto sa amin, kulang po kami ng manpower kaya karamihan nag-e-extend po ang staff na nagta-trabaho. Tapos may pasok na po kami ng Sabado due to lack of manpower (The effect on us is lack of manpower so most of us in the office extend for additional hours. We are also required now to come to the office on Saturdays due to lack of manpower),” he added.

As of Wednesday (February 19), the Ministry of Health (MOH) reported three new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number infected to 84.

This makes Singapore the third country with the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection after China and Japan.

Of the 84, a total of 50 are still in hospital while the other 34 already recovered and discharged.

Most of those in the hospitals are already in stable condition with only four remain critical.

The World Health Organization (WHO) lauded Singapore’s efforts in handling cases of COVID-19.

“We are very impressed with the efforts they are making to find every case, follow up with contacts and stop transmission,” said World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Singapore is leaving no stone unturned, testing every case of influenza-like illness and pneumonia, and so far they have not found evidence of community transmission,” he added.

Singapore’s campaign against the spread of coronavirus came strong as its leaders, led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, lead the efforts themselves.

On February 8, Prime Minister Lee posted a video on his Facebook in three languages encouraging Singaporeans to stay united and resolute, assuring them that the country is much prepared now than it was 17 years ago during the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars).

Among the measures the Singapore government has taken into place is the intensified contact tracing and monitoring; the implementation of the new ‘Stay-Home Notice’ for 14 days for Singapore residents and long-term pass holders returning from mainland China (outside of Hubei). MNP (with inputs from Annie Mancilla)

Singapore’s DBS evacuates 300 staff after employee contracts coronavirus

UNTV News   •   February 12, 2020

Singapore’s biggest bank DBS evacuated 300 staff from its head office on Wednesday (February 12) as a precautionary measure following a confirmed coronavirus case at the lender, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.

Singapore has reported a total od 50 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, one of the highest tallies outside China, including mounting evidence of local transmission. The government has been trying to calm nerves after it raised the virus alert level last week, sparking panic buying of essentials such as rice and toilet paper.

“DBS confirms today that one employee has been infected with the novel coronavirus,” the bank said in a statement. It said an employee was tested on Feb. 11 and the bank was informed of the confirmation on Wednesday morning.

As of noon, the bank asked all employees on the affected floor to vacate the premises and work from home, it added. The statement did not say how many staff were impacted.

The bank said it was conducting detailed contact tracing related to the infected employee. (Reuters)

(Production: Edgar Su, Mark Ho)

Singapore confirms first case of 2019-nCoV, observes two more suspected cases

Marje Pelayo   •   January 24, 2020

SINGAPORE – The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Thursday (January 23) reported the country’s first case of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019 nCov) infection.

The infected individual is a 66-year-old male Chinese national from Wuhan City who arrived in the city state with his family on January 20.

The patient is now confined at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and has been in stable condition.

The Ministry is also observing the condition of two suspected cases of 2019 nCov infection.

One is a 53-year-old female Chinese national also from Wuhan, whose preliminary test for nCov is positive.

She is now in stable condition while the Ministry waits for the result of the confirmatory tests on her case.

Health authorities in Singapore are currently conducting contact tracing on persons who have had close contacts with patients.

The Ministry has identified nine travelling companions of the 66-year-old male patient, one of whom has been warded as a suspect case, a 37-year-old Chinese male from Wuhan.

He is now in stable condition.

Meanwhile, the rest of their companions will be quarantined for 14 days.

The Ministry ramped up its precautionary measures by ordering all public hospitals in Singapore “to screen and manage suspect and confirmed cases,” and reminded doctors and healthcare workers “to be highly vigilant, and maintain strict infection control and prevention measures.”

“Given the high volume of international travel to Singapore, MOH expects to see more suspect cases and imported cases. We urge the public to remain calm and vigilant, and to adopt good personal hygiene practices,” the Ministry said in a press release.

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