Singapore GE2020: PAP's Ng Ling Ling and Shawn Huang Defend Themselves In 'Trial by Internet'

PM Lee described the recent controversies surrounding PAP's new candidates as 'trial by internet' and warned against such accusations

The controversies surrounding People Action Party's (PAP) new faces for the upcoming General Election 2020, slated for July 10, are refusing to die down. If Ivan Lim was accused of 'elitist behavior' and 'arrogance' besides 'corruption', two more have been slammed on social media for allegedly making false claims.

The most notable of them is of Ng Ling Ling. The 48-year-old will contest from Ang Mo Kio GRC where Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will stand for re-election. While it wasn't as grave as Lim's, Ling was accused of making false claims. Another PAP candidate Huang Wei Zhong Shawn has been mired in controversies regarding the change in the surname and throwing away food during 2018 National Day Parade rehearsal when he was the commander.

PAP candidates
PAP candidates Ng Ling Ling (left) and Shawn Huang People's Action Party

Ling's False Claim

Ling during her introduction as a PAP candidate on June 25 claimed that she set up Social Service Training Institute (SSTI) — something a Facebook user refuted. "I set up the SSTI and allocated funds to ensure that social service agencies can run critical programs," Ling said.

But in a Facebook post on June 29, Richard Giam said that it was a false claim as SSTI's founding director was Tan Bee Heong and Ling had joined a few months after it was set up. "I cannot publicly claim that I set up a team when I was only one of the contributing members. It would be very misleading and deceptive," Giam said adding that he worked under her from September 2004 to August 2006 when she was the assistant director of the institute.

The post was shared 534 times. However, Ling decided to address the issue before it went out of hands. During a press conference alongside PM Lee Hsien Loong and her three other teammates Gan Thiam Poh, Nadia Samdin and Darryl David at the Ang Mo Kio GRC, Ling said she helped the institute become operational and ensure financial stability while she also acknowledged Tan as the founding director.

"I have always done things as a team and I fully acknowledge that the founding director of SSTI is Ms Tan Bee Heong. We were a very small team but we were very hardworking and dedicated to increasing the training program for our social service organizations, she noted. A few hours later, she also explained it in her Facebook post.

Tan also acknowledged Ling's contribution to the foundation of the institute. Apart from her, Gerard Ee, the National Council of Social Service president during that time, defended Ling saying that it was a "mere Freudian slip".

"Ling Ling as assistant director, together with her team, contributed much to build up SSTI. It was a start-up and with the efforts of Ling Ling and her team who supported Bee Heong, it grew rapidly, said Ee who is former nominated Member of the Parliament.

Shawn Was Ashamed of His Surname

There was another controversy regarding Shawn's surname change. A Facebook user claimed that he was ashamed of his Indonesian-Chinese origin and changed his surname from 'Ingkiriwang' to contest in the election. It was also alleged that he edited his Wikipedia page to hide his former surname.

Facebook post

While he accepted that he did change his surname, it had nothing to do with his origins. He did so because his family surname has been Huang for many generations. Before migrating to Singapore, his great grandfather adopted the Ingkiriwang surname while in Indonesia. Shawn, born in the city-state, was also registered using the same surname. In 1989 when his parents decided to revert to the original family name, Huang, for NRIC registration, he could not do that as it required the name mentioned in the birth certificate.

"I recently looked into the matter again, and confirmed that what I had been told while in primary school [it] was incorrect, and my deed poll name has been valid all along. I, therefore, decided to henceforth use my legal surname Huang, which was intended by my parents for me," added Huang, who was a fighter pilot and the first non-American to pass from the U.S. Airforce Academy with distinction.

NDP Incident

In another post, which was later deleted, a user claimed that Huang threw food back at officers during the 2018 National Day Parade rehearsal. Huang was the commander of that year's NDP. The user, who claimed to be a Warrant Officer that time, was supervising the logistics control group. She said that Huang turned away food pack and threw it on the table in front of her servicemen. She further claimed that Huang reacted that way because he was offended for being turned away when he asked the first time.

However, Huang later clarified the allegation in a Facebook post, saying it was a "misunderstanding".

Facebook posts
Shawn Huang's responses Facebook

PM Responds to 'Trial by Internet'

With such claims surfacing one after the other, PM Lee responded to those during the virtual press conference on June 29. He said that there was not enough time to investigate Lim controversies and it was unfortunate that he had to drop out. But the matter will be investigated after the election. Lee also warned against the trial by the internet of candidates since such claims distract the real issues of election and added that the party would back the candidate if there was nothing.

"I would say with social media, it is very easy now for issues to be picked up, for people to make criticisms, and these criticisms will be circulated around and possibly gain currency whether or not they are founded," he said.

"It sets a very damaging precedent that you can condemn somebody and write him off on the basis of an internet campaign. We don't have time to settle it now, but we can't simply write off and destroy people like this," Lee further said, adding that each of the claims will be verified after the election.