Singapore envoy says we reserve right to invoke online law against Kejriwal over Covid warning

Singapore High Commissioner Simon Wong on Tuesday came down heavily on Arvind Kejriwal for his tweet on an alleged dangerous variant of COVID-19, saying that Singapore reserves the right to invoke his country’s online fake news Act on the Delhi Chief Minister’s assertions.

He also said that a person holding government office “must not promote false news”. “In Singapore, we have Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) to mitigate misinformation and we reserve right to invoke POFMA on assertions made by CM (Delhi),” said Simon Wong.

POFMA’s primary tools to counter online falsehoods are the correction directions – these directions do not require the online falsehood to be removed. In more serious cases, a stop communication or disabling direction may be used.

Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal had yesterday made a tweet about an alleged “new form” of COVID-19 in Singapore and claimed it is very dangerous for children.
“New form of coronavirus in Singapore is said to be very dangerous for children. It could reach Delhi in the form of a third wave. My appeal to the Central government: 1. Cancel all air services with Singapore with immediate effect 2. Work on vaccine alternatives for children on a priority basis,” the chief minister had said.

Kejriwal’s remarks evoked responses and caused some alarm. Singapore’s Health Ministry came out with a strong rebuttal, saying there is no “Singapore variant” and some COVID-19 patients tested in recent weeks show B.1.617 strain that was first discovered in India.

The Indian envoy to Singapore was also summoned by the country’s foreign ministry after which he clarified that Delhi CM has no competence to pronounce on COVID variants or civil aviation policy. Later, the Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also commented on the matter. Jaishankar asserted that Kejriwal doesn’t speak for India.
Simon Wong said he felt reassured by the remarks of MEA and the External Affairs Minister. “I think it is incumbent on Delhi government if they want to talk about more things dealing with domestic politics. I feel that as a Singapore High Commissioner here, my task is to deal with bilateral relationship. We don’t dabble into domestic politics so I leave it to the Government of India and political parties to sort it out. I am heartened and very assured by clarification made by MEA and also the External Affairs Minister,” he said.

He said Kejriwal’s remarks will not impact the bilateral cooperation and “the unfortunate episode should be put behind and we must focus and help each other in the fight against COVID-19 in both countries”. “It (Delhi CM’s remarks) would not impact our (India-Singapore) hand-in-hand fight against COVID. As witnessed yesterday and today with transportation of medical aid, we’re working together. Pandemic knows no boundary or political colour,” he said.


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