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An “Exercise of Government Power,” but can we trust them to use it appropriately?

by Brad Bowyer

Minister of Home Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam in an aired television interview on Friday, said on the proposed Protection against Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill, “The Government is best placed. What we are talking about is setting out a clarification, sometimes a take-down. And I don’t see why this needs to be politicised.”

“This is an exercise of Government power, just like the exercise of so many other Government powers. Powers of arrest, powers of detention, powers of investigation, powers to run the economy, spend billions of dollars… (and) put out the truth.”

The proposed bill seeks to grant powers to any Ministers to issue out orders to any online communicate for correction or takedown if conditions are met. Other than being false statements of facts, statements that diminish public confidence in the Singapore government are also covered under the said offences.

But Mr Shanmugam said that he cannot vouch for how future governments will act when asked whether the proposed law may be abused. By saying that he is acknowledging that a potential for abuse exists in the act as currently written which by extension means he is also asking us to trust that this current government won’t abuse it.

Leaving that worrying though aside for a moment should we not expect our government to draft legislation that is NOT OPEN TO ABUSE by anybody now or in the future?

As I have said before power once given is hard to retract so every consideration should be made to ensure that it is necessary and certainly not open for abuse before it is given. Is this not a dereliction of duty to rush a law for an immediate need without concern for the future ramifications?

And then we get to the question of can we trust the current government not to abuse it?

The head of the committee on Fake News is Charles Chong and nobody is yet to get a satisfactory answer of his spreading of the mysterious missing funds information that influenced the Punggol East election. Then we have the recent Keppel O&M scandal that was initially denied and then finally admitted when international legal action commenced . Or the health data scandals that were kept quiet until forced in to the open by third parties amongst others and action was finally taken.

With a track record of questionable behaviour and cover ups like this how can we trust the current government won’t abuse it since they know there is a potential to do so?

In fact, given the track record should not the focus be on regaining our Trust so we dont need such laws rather than rushing them with a built in potential for abuse through parliament.

Laws that are now almost universally being condemned and which for some reason also have a clause built in that the government ministers can exempt themselves or anyone of their choosing from compliance from.

We all agree Fake News is an issue but if legislation is to be part of the answer then it must be carefully drafted to leave no room for abuse by the current or future governments and not have clauses exempting anyone from obeying it.

Our laws should be carefully considered, we should all be equal under them and they certainly should not have ANY known potential for abuse within them.

This was first published on Mr Boywer’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.