Chee Hong Tat Alleges That NCMP Leon Perera Suggested Partisan Editing By MediaCorp For Parliamentary Debate Videos
There seems to be a feud brewing between Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leon Perera and Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat.
After their heated disagreement regarding the e-cigarettes debacle, Mr Chee now questions the ethics of Mr Perera in “telling untruths” in Parliament to “gain political points”.
It all started with a parliamentary discussion between the two, which started with Mr Chee taking issue with Mr Perera’s accusation that MediaCorp had edited parliament footage in a “partisan manner”.
According to Mr Chee, Mr Perera had suggested that parts of his comments about the debate on the Presidential Elections Amendment Bill were left out intentionally. Mr Perera then emailed MediaCorp about the issue, and was told that the missing parts were due to a “technical error”, and was fixed 2 days before Mr Perera even emailed MediaCorp. The video in question was then re-uploaded in full.
In the exchange, Mr Chee took offence with Mr Perera’s delay in correspondence with MediaCorp, especially since the video had already been fixed. Mr Perera then said that he didn’t have the dates of his emails on hand, but accepted Mr Chee’s assertions nonetheless.
That’s that, right? A disagreement amicably resolved in parliament.
Then, after their parliamentary exchange, Mr Chee posted on Facebook, suggesting that Mr Perera made false accusations that MediaCorp purposefully edited clips in a partisan manner. In retaliation, Mr Perera shot back with a Facebook post of his own.
Even worse, the whole feud is boiling down to a “he said, he said” situation.
Let’s take a look at what’s going on.
Perera vs Chee
It all started on 9 Nov, when Mr Chee posted a Facebook post brimming with accusations against Mr Perera from the Worker’s Party. Mr Chee took issue with Mr Perera’s comments in their exchange regarding Medicorp’s editing and uploading of Parliamentary debate video recordings.
In his Facebook post, Mr Chee alleges that Mr Perera implied that MediaCorp edited Parliamentary footages in a partisan manner.
Three hours later, Mr Perera replied to the allegations.
Mr Perera clarified in his Facebook posts, that his questions were directed at the “ownership of the Copyright to Parliamentary video footage” and questioned why a “live feed cannot be made available” like in other countries.
What really went down?
To find out what happened, we decided to take a look at what was said between the two.
According to Channel NewsAsia’s (CNA) video of the exchange from 0.58 – 2.05, Mr Perera asks Mr Chee,
Firstly, why is Parliament not given the modest funding ability to make its own live feed and video recordings available and provide the searchable archive as is common in other developed countries’ legislatures like Australia, Taiwan, Japan, UK, US, France for example?
Why does a corporate entity own the copyright to a record of parliamentary proceedings, an activity where other costs associated with creating the proceedings… are paid for by the taxpayers.
Why should a corporate entity be given so much power to choose what to put up, when to put it up, when to take it down, how to edit it before presentation, and I do know from experience that at times these clips are edited and they are not archived and made available verbatim? (emphasis ours)
With the help of CNA’s videos, we find out that Mr Perera did not state that his videos were edited in a “partisan manner”, but simply suggested that they were in general edited and not available ad verbatim.
To be fair, what Mr Chee may be disputing is Mr Perera’s statement regarding the editing of clips. However, this still does not justify Mr Chee’s serious allegation of Mr Perera implying that MediaCorp edited Parliamentary footages in a “partisan manner”.
Nonetheless, we took a look at videos on CNA and Gov.sg YouTube channel, and did not find footage of Mr Perera making such an assertion.
This leaves one to wonder who is truly making the false accusation in this case.
Mr Perera Grudgingly Conceded The Point
The next part of Mr Chee’s allegations involve Mr Perera’s denial of the sequence of events regarding MediaCorp’s truncated video upload in February.
Mr Chee writes in his Facebook post:
Mr Chee was apparently so frustrated, he decided to outline Mr Perera’s “deception” in a Facebook post on 9 Nov, two days after this debate was uploaded on Gov.sg’s YouTube channel.
This is despite Mr Perera conceding that he accepted Mr Chee’s explanation a grand total of four times during the debate.
According to CNA’s video, Mr Perera states from 3.24 – 4.01,
I do not have a specific recollection of the dates, but I will say at this point that it could well be the case that that was the correspondence. So I will need to go back and refer to my archive of emails to verify that’s the case but I’m sure and I’m quite willing to accept what the MOS has said that that is the case. I’m sure that will be the case if I verify it, so I’m quite prepared to accept that fact.
And as I said earlier I’m quite prepared to accept the MOS’ assurance that video footage is not as a matter of policy edited for whatever reason and it is uploaded verbatim, with the exception of errors or technical glitches that I do accept will happen from time to time. (emphasis ours)
As highlighted, Mr Perera mentions multiple times that he “accepts” what Mr Chee says and he will verify if the timeline is as Mr Chee has suggested upon checking his archived emails. Mr Perera then tries to ask Mr Chee for a second time for the assurance that videos will only be edited to ensure continuity. However, the video stops there, and we don’t know if Mr Chee had addressed these concerns.
Wrong To Tell Untruths To Score Political Points
The final allegation by Mr Chee is possibly the most serious of all as it involves what Singaporeans wish to see in Parliament from their leaders.
Mr Chee states in his Facebook post dated 9 Nov,
It is surprising that Mr Perera remembered the original ‘editing’ and that he had asked MediaCorp, but ‘forgot’ that MediaCorp told him it was an error which had already been rectified.
It is part of debate to criticize and present different views. But it is unethical and wrong to tell untruths to score political points.
This is not what Singaporeans want to see in Parliament.
Wise words indeed from Mr Chee.
Unfortunately, the contents and allegations in his Facebook post are reflective of the exact same things he’s accusing of Mr Perera.
- It is surprising that Mr Chee remembered the timeline of events for MediaCorp’s “truncated” video, but “forgot” that Mr Perera had already conceded the events of the timeline to him.
- It is part of debate to criticize and present different views. But it is unethical to allege that Mr Perera implied things he did not say.
- This is not what Singaporeans want to see on our Ministers’ social media pages, as well as in Parliament.
Hammering Home A Point
In Mr Chee’s own words previously to Mr Perera,
And if no problem exists I think one should not go round looking for imaginary problems to tackle. That’s like having a hammer and then wanting to knock everything around you as though they’re nails.
Upon further examination, it seems like Mr Chee’s accusations of Mr Perera are similar to what he’s doing himself.
With all due respect, perhaps Mr Chee should also consider using other kinds of equipment to hammer home issues that have already been resolved in Parliament.
Something more representative of his party may be in order.
Featured images from GovSingapore’s YouTube Channel.