Leong Mun Wai issued Pofma correction order for post on couple not getting aid, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Leong Mun Wai issued Pofma correction order for post on couple not getting aid

Progress Singapore Party (PSP) Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai has been issued an order under Singapore’s fake news law to carry a correction to a Facebook post he made about a couple who purportedly needed financial assistance for their health problems, but had been overlooked by government agencies.

The couple, who live in West Coast, have trouble getting around. The man, 60, lost his sight from glaucoma several years ago, and his wife, 55, broke her ankle in a fall in 2023.

Mr Leong claimed in his post on Feb 12 that other than a Home Caregiving Grant – a monthly grant given to caregivers to help ease their financial burden – the couple were not receiving any financial assistance from public sector agencies for their daily expenses.

He said he visited the couple with other party members after the PSP West Coast team learnt they needed assistance.

He claimed that the woman had used up most of the funds in her MediSave account to pay for a leg operation, and had stopped attending physiotherapy sessions as she could not afford to pay the $100 for each session.

Mr Leong also claimed that the couple had applied for assistance with their transport costs, but had been rejected.

In a statement issued on Feb 15, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said these claims are false. MSF said the couple are receiving financial assistance from various agencies, including transport vouchers. It added that the woman still has more than $60,000 in her MediSave account, and did not have to pay out of pocket for the physiotherapy sessions.

The falsehoods in Mr Leong’s post were later republished by The Online Citizen on Facebook, as well as Gutzy Asia on Facebook, X and the Gutzy Asia website.

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office to issue a correction direction to Mr Leong, Gutzy Asia, and The Online Citizen. All three were required to carry a correction notice alongside their posts.

Mr Leong subsequently took down the post. He made a new post on Feb 15 that linked to the corrections, and stated that he had been “drawn in” by the couple’s description of the hard times they had fallen on.

“I spoke about their circumstances, and the assistance they were given in a 12 Feb 2024 post on my Facebook and Instagram pages, not knowing that this may not be the full picture,” he wrote.

He thanked the Government for the help it had given the couple, adding: “Accountability is important, and I hold myself accountable for the posts. I have since taken them down.”

Gutzy Asia and The Online Citizen carried the correction notice on their Facebook pages.

MSF said: “False statements, such as those made in Leong’s posts, erode public trust and mislead the public about the support that is available and provided to families who are in need.”

MSF said the couple receive monthly vouchers to help with their utilities from the South West Community Development Council, as well as NTUC supermarket vouchers from the People’s Association (PA). They also get $300 a month in cash from a temple.

Since 2021, the couple have received about $39,000 in cash and vouchers, including $21,000 in MSF ComCare assistance for lower-income households from May 2021 to April 2023, said MSF.

MSF said they currently have more than $100,000 in total in both their Central Provident Fund (CPF) Retirement accounts. In April 2023, the woman made and received a CPF withdrawal of $5,000, the ministry noted.

It said the cost of her stay at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH), including her leg operation, was about $8,580. After government subsidies of about $6,300, MediShield Life payouts and MediSave payments, her remaining bill amount was about $240.

Prior to the operation for her fractured ankle, the woman had more than $60,000 in her MediSave account. As at Feb 12, she still had a balance of more than $60,000 in her MediSave account, said MSF.

The ministry said all the woman’s outpatient physiotherapy sessions at NTFGH, which cost around $25 per session after government subsidies, were also fully covered by MediFund. “She will continue to receive full MediFund assistance for her outpatient bills until June 2024, at which point her eligibility for MediFund will be re-assessed,” said MSF.

On transport assistance, MSF said the couple received public transport vouchers in the current and past two exercises to disburse these to lower-income households. The man has been receiving subsidised medical escort and transport services from community care providers since 2021, MSF added. When the woman fractured her ankle, the Silver Generation Office offered to refer her to these services, but she declined the offer, said the ministry.

MSF added that an officer from the PA also visits the couple regularly, has taken them to hospital visits, bought meals for them when they could not leave their home, and helped them run errands.

MSF said anyone who comes across those who require financial help can call the ComCare hotline on 1800-222-0000, or approach the nearest Social Service Office or Family Service Centre.