As Malaysia takes the progressive approach of reviewing the suitability of some of its laws, Singapore holds on tight to its old ways despite many voicing that these laws are too oppressive or redundant in the face of other existing legislation.
One of these laws facing the axe across the causeway is the draconian Sedition Act 1948. As you can see from the date of this Act, it is high time this piece of legislation is reviewed. We are now in 2018, a far cry from post war 1948. In large part, this act was devised to deal with the upsurge of communism. Now that communism is no longer a viable threat, it follows to say that the necessity of the act is similarly no longer viable.
From the Singaporean context, we too have this dreaded act – this act along with the infamous Internal Securities Act (ISA) – has been used to silence all matter of behaviour deemed undesirable by the powers be. Victims have included cartoonist, Leslie Chew and the many individuals who were arrested and detained without trial in Operations Spectrum and Coldstore.
In many ways, events have played out to vindicate the victims of these draconian laws somewhat. Films, articles and books have been written in support of Singaporeans such as Teo Soh Lung, Tan Wah Piow and many more. Yet, the years they have lost incarcerated without charge can never be replaced. Nor can the emotional and mental anguish ever be erased. What has Operation Coldstore or Operation Spectrum ever really achieved apart from creating a needless climate of fear? Has it been shown that these two operations contributed to the economic success of Singapore? If not, what has it been for but to ensure that the ruling party is never questioned?
It’s not too late for Singapore to also take a fresh look at its statute books. Singaporeans are taking a keen interest in development across the causeway and like it or not, there will be comparisons. Does Singapore want to come out favourably in this comparison? If so, please review this piece of outdated legislation instead of clinging stubbornly onto old ways.
What about the issue of “fake news”? As Singapore takes steps to close ranks on alternative news sites struggling to stay afloat, Malaysia has taken on a liberal stance as it moves to abolish the “fake news” act. Anwar has also publicly called for the press to scrutinise government.
Will Singapore continue in its high handed approach towards members of the academia deemed too outspoken?
What of the mandatory death penalty? There have long been objections to the liberal use of the mandatory death penalty in Singapore. Quite a few cases have captured the public imagination in recent years. One fortunate Yong Vui Kong was granted a reprieve while many others before and after him have lost their battle with the noose on the flawed argument that the death penalty prevents crime*.
Is there really widespread support in Singapore for the death penalty? The government states this as the case but short of a public fact-finding exercise, we will never know. Is it not high time for review?
The law is never static and if it comes to a point where certain laws, no longer serve us, it is no shame to repeal. This, my friend, is progress.
Will we progress? Can we progress? I suppose it is anyone’s guess. I know that Malaysia is taking its own steps to progress.