Opinions

GE 2020: How The Ivan Lim Scandal Sparked A "Trial By Internet"

In recent days, Ivan Lim had become a trending topic in Singapore.

On June 24, he was announced as one of the People Action Party’s candidate for Jurong GRC. Three days later, he withdrew from GE 2020 amidst criticism on social media.

The withdrawal came despite a press statement from Ivan denying all allegations and restating his commitment to “stay the course.”

Meanwhile, PAP said that they will only look into the allegations post-election.

Ivan Lim Slammed For Bad Character, Poor Conduct

Criticism of Ivan Lim’s character and conduct had flooded the social media space.

These accusations follow him from Singapore Polytechnic (where he studied), to National Service (where he served), and Keppel (his current workplace).

Comments on Facebook

Peers and colleagues who worked with Ivan characterised him as “self-centred” and arrogant. Incidents where Ivan allegedly bullied and mistreated his subordinates were also recounted.

Bryant Wong’s expose on Ivan Lim on Facebook

Netizen Bryant Wong, alleged that Ivan was “condescending” and “elitist”.

To add on, an email that recounted how Ivan endangered workers’ lives in Keppel also resurfaced. He has also been connected to a Brazilian corruption scandal in Keppel, though he has denied these allegations.

Comments from Facebook

Netizens Act As Judge, Jury, and Executioner

The outcry against Ivan has led netizens and politicians and even businesses into a free-for-all dog fight. Those who believe that he is guilty point to the consistency and frequency of testimonies on Ivan’s character and conduct.

Image Credit: Change.Org

Netizens objected to his candidacy, and a petition on change.org was created to campaign for his removal.

PAP’s candidate screening process has also been cast under scrutiny as several opposition parties questioned the rigour of their candidate selection process.

Image Credit: Reddit

The topic has also cast other candidates into the public eye — “Down-to-earth Desmond” has been set up as Ivan’s virtuous PAP counterpart.

This Ivan Lim scandal has also become a marketing stunt for some corporations. Local ramen joint Takagi Ramen for instance, offered Ivan a voucher to their outlets as a ‘consolation gift’ on their Facebook page.

Ivan Lim: Innocent or Guilty?

Some netizens continue to defend Ivan, pointing out that the allegations against him are unverified.

Singaporean blogger Critical Spectator even published a post criticising netizens who were “hounding” Ivan and warned against the evils of mob mentalities.

Prior to Ivan’s withdrawal from GE 2020, PAP had also backed him up.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat called for Ivan to address criticism against him so that the public could “hear both sides of the story.”

In response, Bryant Wong — Ivan Lim’s foremost critic — stated that he was “willing to stand by his statement of encounter”.

Bryan Wong’s post on Facebook

When Ivan announced his withdrawal from the election, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the party will investigate this incident after the election.

He cautioned the public against a “trial by Internet” and said that “(Singaporeans) can’t simply write off and destroy people.”

This statement is a tad ironic however, as it came on the heels of another social media scandal — the PAP’s crucification of Alfian Sa’at.

Just last week, the Singaporean playwright was accused of being a pro-Malaysian activist on the PAP’s Facebook page and official website.

Ivan Lim’s Case May Go To Court

There is nothing barring PAP from suing members of the public for slander.

Most of the allegations against Ivan rest on personal judgements made about his character. These incidents may no longer be verifiable, given that they took place many years ago.

The coherence of testimonials made by members of the public would serve as the main form of evidence in court, turning the case into a matter of ‘he said, she said.’

However, the scale of allegations made against Ivan Lim and the difficulty of tracking their sources down will make it difficult for the court to hold any one person responsible — unless the prosecution decides to settle on a single scapegoat.

That may be Bryant Wong.

Regardless of the legal outcome, it is anyone’s guess whether public opinion will sway in Ivan’s favour.

Power to The Public

What is certain though, is that the PAP’s control over free speech is waning.

Public opinion was able to successfully evict a PAP candidate considered unsuitable for office. Whether that power will hold after GE 2020 is another matter.

While the Internet has become a tool for expression of political dissent; the question lies in whether Singaporeans know how to wield it.

None of the allegations levelled against Ivan have been verified so far. If Ivan Lim proves to be innocent, he would have been an innocent man doxxed by an angry mob on a witch hunt.

With his reputation going down the drain, this would affect his career as well as any future political endeavours.

However, if Ivan is indeed guilty of the allegations, then this would be one of Singapore’s most successful cases of whistleblowing and social policing.

Regardless, it begs the question if anyone — even someone undeserving of office — deserves to be systematically destroyed by the public.

Featured Image Credit: People’s Action Party

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