The Benjamin Lim case: Minister slams inaccurate statements on teen's death
Minister for Home Affairs and Law, Mr K. Shanmugam, slammed inaccurate statements by online media regarding the case of 14-year-old Benjamin Lim.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday (March 1), he said that some of the inaccurate statements about the case included that the five police officers were wearing clothes which stated the words "Police."
Another would be that the police intimidated the boy and pressured him to confess to a crime which he did not commit.
He singled out online socio-political blog The Online Citizen (TOC) for putting out these statements which he unequivocally called "falsehoods."
"It (TOC) had gone on a planned orchestrated campaign, using falsehood...
...The suggestion is that the police were lying to Singaporeans." - Mr K. Shanmugam.
Mr Shanmugam said that TOC had published at least 20 articles about the case with these falsehoods.
For example, police had said in a statement that they went to the school in plainclothes, yet TOC said in an article on Feb 5 that they wore clothing which stating the words"Police."
According to Mr Shanmugam, TOC had relied on a posting of a lady Ms Mary Anne Pereira who said that her son saw police officers at the school wearing polo T-shirts with the word "Police."
When police checked with Ms Pereira, it was found that she had actually got the dates mix up.
On Jan 26, the police who went down to the school were in plainclothes.
Ms Pereira has since taken down the post, the minister said.
Mr Shanmugam added that he has asked his ministry to study how the police and other institutions can respond in future to such falsehoods.
He said he had asked his ministry not to comment on the matter out of respect to the family and that there will be a coroner's inquiry in due time.
Mr Melvin Yong, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC, later asked Mr Shanmugam to elaborate on his assessment on TOC's motivation, conduct and coverage of the case.
To which Mr Shanmugam replied: "I think it's a calculated cynical attempt to tar the police using falsehoods and what should happen hereafter is not something that I should be commenting on today."
Currently, TOC has not responded to Mr Shanmugam's statement on his website.
File photo of Mr K. Shanmugam. He slammed the inaccurate online reports put out by The Online Citizen. PHOTO: SPH FILE
Mr Shanmugam also said that he was surprised at the comments recently made by Senior Counsel Thio Shen Yi, president of The Law Society of Singapore in the society's monthly newsletter, Singapore Law Gazette.
Mr Shanmugam said that several of the statements made by Mr Thio were false, including how five police officers had spoken to Benjamin and that all five had taken him to the police station.
Mr Shanmugam said only one police officer had spoken to Benjamin in the principal's office.
Mr Thio had suggested that the police officers should have behaved in a less intimidating way and that he implied that Benjamin effectively killed himself because of the intimidation.
"Mr Thio has a duty to be fair to the police officers involved. He need only to have referred to the police statement on Feb 1 to know that his facts are untrue.” - Mr K. Shanmugam
Mr Shanmugam said that as a lawyer, Mr Thio should have known to seek expert evidence, such as assessments from psychologists, he added.
As for Mr Thio's call for suspects to have lawyers present when they were being interviewed by the police, Mr Shanmugam said he will deal with them later because for now, he wanted to keep discussions to the tragic case.
Related article: The Benjamin Lim case: What happened?