Straits Times: Net user apologises for taking WP youth chief’s ID

THE Internet user who used the name of opposition politician Perry Tong two weeks ago in a popular online forum, has apologised to the Workers’ Party (WP) Youth Wing president for doing so.

Mr Bernard Soh sent an e-mail to the media on Thursday, identifying himself as the person who had used the nickname “Perry Tong” on the popular Sammyboy website.

He also attached his letter of apology to Mr Tong, which Mr Soh said he had sent to the politician and posted online on the Sammyboy website as well.

Mr Soh said he was “very traumatised” that a police report had been filed earlier this week by Mr Tong for the fraudulent use of his name on the Internet.

He wrote to Mr Tong: “I would like to offer my sincere apologies to you if my action has caused you any distress or unhappiness in any way.”

Calling himself a fervent supporter of the WP for the past 10 years, he told the youth leader he used his name because he was disappointed at the “mudslinging” between WP members on the Sammyboy website.

He wanted to use the “authority” of someone like Mr Tong to get them to stop, he said.

Mr Tong had earlier posted a statement on the party’s Youth Wing website saying someone had used his e-mail address as a sign-on to the forum.

But Mr Soh denied he had hacked into Mr Tong’s account. He said he had used a fictitious e-mail address to register with the website.

“I registered the nickname ‘Perry Tong’ using a fictitious e-mail that doesn’t exist and not your e-mail,” he wrote to Mr Tong.

In his e-mail to the media, Mr Soh said: “It is most unfortunate that Mr Tong chose to report this incident to the police, and the irony of it is I am a WP supporter.”

No personal details of Mr Soh are available because he did not reply to The Straits Times’ e-mail message.

When contacted yesterday, the police said they have been informed of Mr Soh’s letter but the investigation is still ongoing.

Mr Tong was in the Philippines yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

KEN KWEK

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TODAY: Workers’ Party netiquette comes under fire

TOR CHING LI
chingli@mediacorp.com.sg

SOME Workers’ Party members have recently become entangled in an Internet forum “brawl”, with mudslinging and namecalling aplenty – to the extent of sparking a thread on the Young People’s Action Party online forum entitled “WP members being complained (sic) on internet forums”. This has garnered more than 80 postings since Oct 14.

One netizen, Mohammad Razari – who claims to be a third-year Singapore Polytechnic electrical engineering student residing in Hougang Ave 1 and says he is a former participant in WP’s outreach programmes – sent a complaint letter to WP chairman Sylvia Lim and secretary-general Low Thia Khiang, citing what he thought to be unacceptable online conduct by WP members such as party webmaster Goh Meng Seng.

He said Mr Goh, a computer retail businessman, was narrow-minded to have called a forum participant “scheming” and “lacking in integrity” after “losing an argument”. He also thought Mr Goh had threatened to sue another forum participant for implying that Mr Goh visited the http://www.sggirls.com forum.

In general, WP members were accused of being “argumentative”, attempting to “sow discord” between various party supporters and even of taking the guise of online “clones” – or posting replies under alternative usernames – to “influence perception”.

These online rumblings are reflected on Sammyboy threads called “Complaint letter to WP Central Executive Committee” and “Any respond (sic), follow up from Sylvia and WP?” with more than 40 and nearly 200 postings respectively.

When approached by TODAY for a response, Mr Goh clarified he had “categorically said (he) will not sue” the forum participant for his misinformed statement. He explained the SG Girls forum shared the same database as http://www.sgforums.com, and that he does not frequent the former site.

As for his harsh words used on the forum participant, Mr Goh said: “What I said could have been harsh but you have to look at it in context. People who argue with me will find me argumentative. But since his agenda is questionable, I am not going to engage him in discussions any more.”

Mr Goh, who has been active in the forum scene since 2003, said he still thinks Internet forums are a good venue to answer critics and eventually win them over. Nevertheless, he added that postings on such freewheeling forums “have to be taken with a pinch of salt”.

As with all things online, not every posting can be taken at face value. WP Youth Wing president Perry Tong recently filed a police report after someone impersonated his identity on the Sammyboy online forums – also on Oct 14, coincidentally.

In the impersonated posting, “Perry Tong” sent WP member “Melvin Tan” a message that read: “We must keep ‘forumers’ here constantly updated about WP activities. Keep clear of mudslinging and personal attacks. I have already instructed Meng Seng and Andrew to stop.”

In an email response to TODAY, WP chairman Ms Lim said: “We are aware that there is activity in the Sammyboy forums involving WP members. Such communications are engaged in the personal capacity of the members concerned as we have not appointed any official spokesman for Internet communications. The official position of the party is to be found on our website and official statements issued.”

Ms Lim added the party is reviewing some existing “general guidelines” for office bearers regarding Internet communications, “with a view to issuing some guidelines to all members”.

In view of the online backlash to WP’s presence, Internet observer Siew Kum Hong said: “One really has to be very disciplined and restrained when participating in such forums. If one engages long enough in such a medium, it is inevitable there will be a backlash from the community. It’s then a question of how one deals with it. This is probably why you don’t see the PAP MPs engaging in such Internet forums.”

In channels such as blogs or websites – which are employed by PAP MPs, such as the http://www.p65.sg site – one can control one’s message and how one chooses to engage the public, he said.

Nanyang Technological University Associate Professor in Political Science, Prof Ho Khai Leong believes both extremes – that of the MPs’ aim to “reach, teach and preach” and the netizens’ mission to “analyse, scrutinise and criticise” – will help mould cyberspace.

He said: “Both these approaches, in their extreme forms, will no doubt invite criticisms, which I think is healthy. As political blogs and bloggers and forumers mature and become more mundane – as we are seeing in many blogs – the more serious and thoughtful blogs and forums will make the more absurd and outlandish ones irrelevant in our everyday discourse of politics in cyberspace.”

Straits Times: Fake Net posting: WP youth chief files police report

WORKERS’ Party (WP) Youth Wing chief Perry Tong has filed a police report over a fraudulent posting made in his name on a popular Internet forum.

He said in a statement on the Youth Wing’s website that someone used his e-mail address as a sign-on to the Sammyboy forum and created an account in the name of “Perry Tong”. His statement included a screenshot of the post, made on the forum two weeks ago.

The post said that the WP should keep the forum posted of its activities. “Keep clear of mudslinging and personal attacks,” it added.

In his statement, Mr Tong, 35, said he could not have created the post on Oct 14 as he was in Pulau Tioman, Malaysia, teaching HSBC staff about scuba diving. Staff at the dive shop would be able to verify that, he added.

“My sincerest apologies to any members of the public who may have been misled,” he said.

Mr Tong, a management consultant and part of the WP team that contested unsuccessfully in East Coast GRC in the May General Election, is in the Philippines. He told The Straits Times: “I’m a political figure, ran in the recent election and have some public recognition. I don’t think it is a good idea to have someone running around impersonating me.”

A police spokesman confirmed yesterday that a report had been received, and said the matter was being looked into.

PEH SHING HUEI

Weekend TODAY: WP urges a timeline plan to tackle haze issue

EVEN as the Asean (Association of South-east Asian Nations) environment ministers gathered in Riau to discuss the haze situation, the Workers’ Party (WP) has urged for more concrete measures to tackle the problem.

In a press release issued on Friday, WP chairman Sylvia Lim said Singapore should push for a commitment from the Indonesian government to enhance its domestic laws and prosecute fire starters.

It should draw up a schedule and implementation plan on the “prevention, detection and putting out of fires, including action at the provincial and local levels”, she said.

On Wednesday, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono apologised to Singapore and Malaysia over the haze. On Thursday he said his country would ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution signed four years ago. Under this, members agree to act to prevent and control burning that may cause pollution in neighbouring countries.

Saying the ratification would have to be pushed through the Indonesian legislature, Ms Lim told Today that Asean should help the Indonesia government set a timeline to do so.

While recognising Indonesia’s sovereignty, the Singapore Government “owes it to Singaporeans” to alleviate the haze situation quickly, said Ms Lim, a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament.

Said Ms Lim: “We have been talking about (the haze problem) since 1992 … but there seems to be no progress.”

She added: “We also recognise that the enforcement for these cross-border problems is always very challenging. If there is a timeline for Indonesia to work to, at least there are some milestones for us to look at, and see if there’s any progress.” – LOH CHEE KONG

Straits Times: WP: S’pore Govt must act more urgently and firmly

BY PEH SHING HUEI

THE Workers’ Party (WP) says that the Singapore Government owes it to its citizens to “adopt a greater sense of urgency and firmness” in solving the haze problem.

In a statement signed by party chairman Sylvia Lim, the opposition party yesterday questioned the progress made since the early 1990s when the smoke from forest fires in Indonesia first hit Singapore.

“Singaporeans have been more than patient. Fourteen years on, what progress has been made?” asked Ms Lim, who is also a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament.

She added: “The PSI levels in Singapore continue to reach unhealthy levels, reducing visibility and creating health problems such as respiratory difficulties and eye irritation. Singaporeans have been suffering physical damage, inconvenience and expense for years.”

The problem requires regional commitment to solve, the party said, adding that it hopes that the meeting of Asean environment ministers this weekend in Pekanbaru will not be a futile one.

“While respecting the sovereignty of our neighbour Indonesia, the Singapore Government owes it to Singaporeans to adopt a greater sense of urgency and firmness in working out effective solutions to the haze problem,” said the WP.

It has proposed setting some milestones. These include a timeline for Indonesia to ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution and a schedule and implementation plan from the Indonesian government on prevention, detection and putting-out of fires.

The WP also said there should be a commitment from the Indonesian government to improve its laws and prosecute those who start forest fires. There should also be contributions from Asean countries, including Singapore, to help Indonesia.

Asked what she thought the Singapore Government should do if the Indonesians could not be persuaded to act, Ms Lim told The Straits Times: “The Asean countries have to discuss and find ways to get Indonesia to comply.”

But she added: “The problem is hard to solve.”

TODAY: Commemorating Children’s Day

Thirty Workers’ Party (WP) members and volunteers yesterday distributed balloons to children in Toa Payoh, Bishan and Bedok to commemorate Children’s Day. Party chairman Sylvia Lim said the outreach programme was mooted by the party‚Äôs younger members, giving them a chance to “interact with the public in a more social context”. She added that over 100 new members joined the WP since the May election. – LEONG WEE KEAT