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Rejection of PJ Thum and Kirsten Han’s company – Using technicality of foreign funding is disingenuous

Can a news outlet (whether online or otherwise) be considered a participant in politics? To the extent that it would report on politics or run opinion pieces on politics, I suppose it could be considered a participant in politics. By that logic, however, where do you draw the line? By exercising our right to vote, aren't we all participants in politics?

The problem with having such a wide definition of "participant in politics" is that it can really include anyone. However, because you cannot police everyone, it ends up being an arbitrary process without clear guidelines. That is the situation we find ourselves in with regards to the reasoning provided by The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) and the Ministry of Finance (MOF) for rejecting the registration of proposed company, OSEA Pte Ltd (OSEA).

The premise for rejecting this application put forward by historian Thum Ping Tjin and journalist Kirsten Han was rejected for having "clearly a political purpose". ACRA and MOF also took issue with the fact that some of the funding behind OSEA would have come from financier, George Soros whom they argued would constitute a foreigner being involved in Singapore's domestic policies.

Taking a step back, let's make some observations. OSEA is not intended to be a political party. Rather it is a platform for discussions and workshops and journalistic pursuits. Does having a political view make you a participant in politics? If so, isn't every single Singaporean who votes also a participant?

Further, OSEA does not seem to have any preferences for political parties. It's only commitment it would appear, is a commitment to democracy and its processes. Given that Singapore is a democracy, it is arguable that its interests are aligned with that of OSEA. What then is the issue? Is it a national security issue or is it a Peoples' Action Party (PAP) security issue? If it is the latter, it should not be confused with national security. Singapore's national security is not under threat. Rather, it is arguable that it is the PAP's concern that OSEA may be a loud critic of it.

Singapore has consistently said that foreigners should not be involved with Singapore's domestic politics. In this case however, that just seems like a pointless technicality. George Soros has many philanthropic interests. In other words, the foundation that made the funding possible was a charitable one - not a political one. On a balance of probabilities, it is highly unlikely that George Soros has any interest in meddling with the politics of Singapore. To put it bluntly, I don't think he gives a rat's ass. Why then has the PAP government come to the conclusion that this is a case of foreign interference? Looking at the situation, it is more likely that the PAP government does not have an issue with George Soros. Rather, it has an issue with Kirsten Han and PJ Thum who are Singaporeans.

Is it right then to use George Soros' name to get at Han and Thum? Is it feasible and reasonable to consider OSEA a political participant? To reject OSEA on the basis that it is a political participant with foreign funding thereby equating it with foreign interference in Singapore's domestic politics is tenuous at best. The funding from Soros is so many layers removed that it is safe to say that OSEA will be controlled by Thum and Han who are both Singaporeans. Soros will have no input whatsoever.

Frankly, I don't think he even cares? If the PAP government is simply worried about Thum and Han influencing Singaporeans against the PAP, then it would not be right to equate that with national security or national interest because that is simply a PAP issue. Using the technicality of foreign funding is disingenuous.