by Roy Ngerng
When I told a friend in Taiwan that the Singapore government has created a new law that would allow the ministers to decide what fake news is, and ask for articles to be taken down, my friend said: this is not a fake news law, this is a censorship law.
In effect, the PAP government has created one law to rule them all. This law will now give the PAP ministers a sweeping right to persecute individuals swiftly without having to go through the cumbersome-ness of previous laws.
But should a minister, or anyone at all, be given such right?
A study by PolitiFact of American presidential candidates showed that “all politicians lie”. Indeed, we cannot trust all the words a politician say, or of anyone for that matter, at least in America.
Another study by the University of East Anglia of 15 countries showed that in a coin flip test, “the four countries which were least honest in reporting whether the coin landed on ‘heads’ or ‘tails’, were China, Japan, South Korea and India”, though the researchers added the caveat that “Asian countries were not significantly more dishonest than others”.
The study’s author Dr David Hugh-Jones concluded: “People’s beliefs about the honesty of their fellow citizens, and those in other countries, may or may not be accurate, and these beliefs can affect how they interact.” He added: “So it is important to understand how these beliefs are formed.”
Indeed, this new law does not seek to understand how beliefs are formed, or to debate about them. It seeks to give the ministers the sole discretion to decide on truth, and to persecute under the hands of the ministers.
If we would even doubt a few words a close friend or relative say, should we not also doubt the blanket right given to a minister to decide on the truth?
By coming out with this law, it is either saying Singapore’s politicians do not lie and can be the arbitrator of truth, or that they have just created a law that will be prone to abuse.
There have been instances in the past where Singapore’s politicians have made questionable statements – I refer specifically to the statements made in the image below. When half-truths or mistruths are made by a minister, and by a former prime minister no less, what recourse would Singaporeans have? If a politician decides to use his or her power to override our claim to truth, will we be able to protect ourselves? If a minister has the right to decide on truth, what about us as citizens? Do we get to decide on the truth as well? Or have you designated a minister to decide on your behalf? I don’t think quite so.
Truth can only be deliberated on, when all the facts and information are presented for debate and discussion. We know for one that the authority’s claim to truth in the 17th century, that the Earth is the center of the universe, has now been debunked as false, after further the inquiry and discovery of knowledge. Yet, before such ‘falsehoods’ were debunked, the authority went ahead to persecute astronomer Galileo for spreading falsehoods, and he was kept under house arrest until his death. It was only after 300 years that the authority in question finally admitted that Galileo was speaking the truth.
No individual, not less a minister, should have the right to decide what truth is, nor should a government be given the right to decide they are right and the citizens wrong.
Just before 2014 when everything happened, many Singaporeans were still holding on to the misconception that our CPF retirement funds are not invested in GIC. After May 2014 when everything began, the government finally admitted to the truth. Your CPF is invested in the GIC. This is a fact.
Not long ago, Singaporeans still believed the government’s claim that HDB public housing flat prices will keep rising. Today, we know flat prices will drop because they only have 99-year leases. This is a fact.
How long did it take for the PAP government to tell you the truth? And even now, you still do not know the complete truth.
The government should not have a right to decide on the truth because even in matters on the CPF and HDB, they cannot be trusted to account fully to Singaporeans. Neither can they be trusted to fully account on what is being done in the GIC and Temasek Holdings.
If a minister is given sweeping powers to decide on truth, as the new law would give them, then Singaporeans can forget about having full accountability. The question is, do you want to give the PAP government such unfettered powers to decide on things they should not have the right to do? Do you not want to know what is happening to your CPF and HDB?
When the former Malaysian governing party came out with a fake news law, the citizens overthrew them at the election.
Because the Malaysians know bullshit when they see it.