Duo behind TRS arrested for sedition
It claimed that a family from the Philippines had sparked the exchange and subsequent arrest of three men during the recent Thaipusam incident.
But that Feb 4 article posted on sociopolitical website The Real Singapore (TRS) has now landed two people in serious trouble.
The Japanese-Australian administrator of the site, Miss Ai Takagi, and her Singaporean boyfriend, Mr Robin Yang Kai Heng, who handles the financials, have been arrested for posting remarks online that could promote ill will and hostility among the different races in Singapore.
They are on bail.
The third person linked to TRS, a Malaysian who calls herself Melanie Tan, has not been arrested and is believed to be in Australia.
The site had allegedly embellished the article to fan xenophobia. The New Paper understands police are investigating an act of sedition.
The site has been accused in the past and in the February article of fanning hatred of foreigners.
The TRS post had carried the lines: "I think what started the incident was a complaint by a Pinoy family with a young child who is crying which caused the parents to tell the police to make the people stop playing the urumi as it is causing the child to cry.
"Shortly afterward, the SPF (Singapore Police Force) and auxiliary police force descended upon the drummer."
The Feb 3 incident allegedly did involve the playing of an urumi, an Indian drum.
But no Philippine family was involved.
The original writer of the article distanced herself from the TRS version of her letter and even took to posting on her Facebook page denying she had mentioned a "Pinoy" family.
Officers from the Special Investigation Section at the Criminal Investigation Department then hunted down the people behind the website.
Enough people knew of the brains behind TRS. Online sites had even offered the trio's mobile numbers and pictures.
They had made many enemies in cyberspace who accused them in the past of plagiarising their articles.
But the three university students had also bragged to their families about the income they had been generating from the online venture.
While Mr Yang, 26, and Miss Takagi, 22, were in Singapore in the last two weeks, police arrested them.
Residents at Block 352A, Canberra Road, witnessed the couple being led by police to their flat at the same block.
A resident said it happened soon after the Feb 4 posting.
The police were seen taking a number of items, including computers.
Although the site is hosted overseas, police here have jurisdiction because the article was posted here while the two were in Singapore.
Miss Takagi is a law student. Mr Yang is also a student at her university.
Yesterday, the couple were again summoned to the Police Cantonment Complex.
After a long wait, TNP spotted Mr Yang and Miss Takagi leaving the building together at around 6pm.
The accused were accompanied by two older men, one believed to be Mr Yang's father.
When TNP approached the younger man to ask about his role in the TRS site, he said: "Who told you I was involved in TRS?"
Miss Takagi declined comment when asked why a foreigner would fan xenophobia.
The Feb 3 incident during Thaipusam resulted in three Singaporean men being charged with various offences, including disorderly conduct and voluntarily causing hurt to a police officer.
Until now, aggrieved parties have not been able to take civil action against TRS because of the cloak of anonymity.
But all that may change with the police investigation, said criminal lawyer Rajan Supramaniam.
"If the people behind TRS are charged and convicted in court following the investigation, aggrieved parties can use that as a basis to take civil action against TRS if they have enough evidence," he said.
"Who told you I was involved in TRS?"
- Mr Robin Yang
TRS in trouble
The Real Singapore (TRS), a sociopolitical website, has been accused by other sociopolitical websites and media organisations of lifting and using articles without permission.
It has also been accused of blatant plagiarism and fanning xenophobia.
The site also fabricated stories to gain eyeballs and released information that damaged individuals.
The website has about 412,000 followers on its Facebook page, which was registered in January 2012. Its Twitter site sees about 6,800 followers.
Sept 2014: Karaoke chain K Box's membership database was leaked online after a group of hackers who called themselves "The Knowns" sent an e-mail to TRS and other media informing them of the hack.
TRS reproduced a screen grab of the e-mail which showed a link to the leaked information on its website and on its Facebook page.
The information there included personal details including NRIC numbers, names and addresses.
June 2013: TRS carried an article, "PAP MP Irene Ng: We should not play the blame game over the haze problem", which it falsely attributed to Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC, Ms Irene Ng.
That prompted Ms Ng to file a police report in which she called the article "pure fiction".
"I did not write this article and have nothing to do with it," she told The Straits Times. "Sad that the website allows the publication of such malicious forgeries in the name of an elected MP to deceive and mislead its readers."
Nov 2012: TRS posted an article claiming that Minister of Defence Ng Eng Hen had not delivered on a promise made in 2011 to publish a list of full-time national servicemen who were given permission to defer their national service for their university studies. The article was defamatory.
Although TRS posted an apology after it was sent lawyers' letters, it then posted additional comments on the matter and allowed users to post comments on the page.
The list was actually available on the Mindef website and is still there.
Who are they?
It is believed three people are behind The Real Singapore (TRS) website and social media sites.
Two of them are foreigners based in Australia, and one is a Singaporean.
All three are students in Brisbane.
The administrator is a former Japanese national who now holds Australian citizenship.
Miss Ai Takagi, 22, is a law student at the University of Queensland and her father is said to be the CEO of a large Japanese corporation.
She is believed to be the main contributor of articles posted on the TRS website.
Mr Robin Yang Kai Heng, 26, studies environmental science at the same university.
The New Paper understands that Mr Yang handles the financials for TRS, which earns a considerable sum from Google ads.
He and Miss Takagi are a couple and they have been staying at his family home in Sembawang during a break from their studies.
The couple returned to Singapore earlier this year and before Mr Yang left Brisbane, he had posted an ad on a Study Connect site forum, seeking a room-mate in Brisbane.
He left for his studies immediately after his operationally ready date in February 2010.
Calling herself Melanie Tan, the 20-something is also a student at the same university.
Miss Tan is a Singapore permanent resident and her father is believed to be an employee of SBS Transit.
TNP understands she has not been arrested and remains in Australia.
Police: Two arrested under Sedition Act
The police have confirmed the arrest of a 26-year-old Singaporean and a 22-year-old Australian woman.
They were nabbed for posting remarks online that could promote ill will and hostility among the different races in Singapore.
A police spokesman said they received reports on Feb 5 regarding an insensitive article that had been posted online.
After conducting extensive checks, the police established the identities of the suspects.
The two were arrested on Feb 6 under the Sedition Act and investigations into the case are ongoing.
The spokesman said: "The police take a stern view of acts that could threaten social harmony in Singapore.
"Any person who posts remarks online that could cause ill will and hostility between the different races or communities in Singapore will be dealt with in accordance with the law."
Under the Sedition Act, anyone found guilty of promoting feelings of ill will and hostility between different races or classes of the population shall be liable, on conviction of a first offence, to a fine up to $5,000 or a jail term up to three years, or both.