By Rachel Zeng
News broke on Friday that the Elections Department (ELD) had lodged a police report against Teo Soh Lung, Roy Ngerng, and The Independent Singapore (TISG) for their posts made on 6 May, which happened to be the Cooling-off Day for the Bukit Batok by-elections.
My personal understanding of the regulations for this ridiculous day is that it does not apply to anyone else except for political parties and their advertising platforms so it was rather puzzling as to why the ELD had found fault with Soh Lung, Roy, and TISG.
Here’s what I gathered from the ELD’s website:
“The eve of Polling Day is designated as Cooling-Off Day, a day when election campaigning is prohibited. This 24-hour campaign silence period is to give voters some time to reflect rationally on issues raised during the election before going to the polls.
There are some exceptions to the prohibition of campaign activities on Cooling-Off Day:
a. Party political broadcasts on television;
b. Reports in the newspapers, on radio and television relating to election matters;
c. Approved posters and banners that were already up, and lawful Internet advertising that was already published before the eve of Polling Day;
d. Books previously scheduled for publication;
e. The transmission of personal political views by individuals to other individuals, on a non-commercial basis, using the Internet, telephone or electronic means; and
f. Such activities or circumstances as may be prescribed by the Minister.
The above exception list, other than party political broadcast, also applies to Polling Day.”
1. Roy expressed his support for Dr Chee on his personal FB and blog;
2. Soh Lung expressed her support for Dr Chee on her personal FB;
3. TISG, while being a political news site, is not affiliated to any political parties, and should be accorded equal immunity status as mainstream media.
Do correct me if I am wrong, but I do not see how Roy, Soh Lung, and The Independent Singapore contravened the regulations of Cooling-off Day.
I am also deeply troubled by the last line of point number 3 of the ELD’s press release which reads, “The two individuals – Teo Soh Lung and Roy Ngerng – also regularly engage in the propagation, promotion, and discussion of political issues.”
Doesn’t the government and their departments regularly engage in the propagation, promotion, and discussion of political issues through the media, education system (especially through the use of history textbooks), and other online and offline platforms too?
Really, what is so wrong about anyone engaging in political discussions, or expressing opinions that are critical of the official narratives on a regular basis? In my opinion, these actions symbolise active citizenry, and all of us do hold the right to form and express opinions even if they are not complementary to the actions and narratives of the government. If Soh Lung and Roy were singled out because they “regularly engage in the propagation, promotion, and discussion of political issues,” then we have an issue here – our freedom of political expression is at stake.
Therefore as a concerned citizen whose taxes go into funding the existence of the ELD (I mean, we don’t get a choice do we?), I am asking the ELD this question “Is there a political motivation to clamp down on the expression of critical views through this act of singling out some notable individuals for the slaughterhouse?”
I hope that ELD can clarify here because even after reading their press statement and the regulations for Cooling-off Day side by side for the 50th time, I still remain baffled by and filled with questions for their action.
This post was first published on Rachel’s blog and reproduced with permission