Friday, 22 September 2023

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Should we trust the govt with POFMA?

by Brad Bowyer

Last year Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) denied the registering of OSEA Pte Ltd, a company set up to provide editorial services to New Naratif on the loose grounds that their parent company had once received a grant from a Swiss charitable foundation, The Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI), which it claimed has association with George Soros Open Society Foundation (OSF) and so by association was being “used by foreigners to meddle in Singapore’s domestic politics.

Aside from this loose link to OSF, OSEA was going to be an organisation set up and run by Singaporeans to put their views forward to New Naratif, A South East Asian research and advocacy outfit commenting on the region as a whole and whose intentions, ownership, members and funding are a matter of public record.

These views however were going to be fair and balanced and where necessary were critical of the establishment and its actions.

At the time of the denial by ACRA, Minister for Social and Family Development Mr Desmond Lee emphasised that the contest of ideas and views on Singapore’s politics should be for Singaporeans to decide.

He added “Because it is our lives at stake, our country at stake, our family, values, future at stake. It is important that Singaporeans be entirely responsible and take responsibility for our destiny,”

Now let’s compare that with the treatment of the Critical Spectator, a political commentary site and Facebook page/poster run by an itinerant Polish Guy, Michael Petraeus, with unknown funding who recently has been openly meddling in Singapore’s domestic and international politics.

He has written articles stoking the fire between Singapore and Malaysia during the recent fractious times, potentially making it worse. He regularly attacks both Malaysia and local alternative sites and especially Singapore’s alternative politicians and contributors.

Mainly this is done with very “loose” facts, childish vitriol and insults and rarely with reasoned argument.

And of course, he sings the praises of the People’s Action Party and how they run Singapore.

He has raised the ire of the people who see him as a government stooge and Internet Brigade member yet instead of any action being taken against a foreigner clearly meddling in our domestic affairs because…

“it is important that Singaporeans be entirely responsible and take responsibility for our destiny,” as per Desmond Lee,

we get silence from the authorities and then Channel News Asia, on 28th April, came out with an editorial to support and attempt to legitimise him after he was called out.

We have the desire for a fair evidence-based debate by Singaporeans being blocked because it includes a component that will be critical of the government on one side and open foreign meddling and influence in a dubious manner seemingly allowed to continue and even promoted unhindered as it supports their agenda on the other.

This by the same people who are telling us we need the Protection from Online Falsehood and Manipulation Act (POFMA) to guard against online manipulation, particularly from foreigners during elections as the Prime Minister said in recent speeches, and we should trust them whole heartedly not to abuse it.

How can we have that wholehearted trust in an environment with such double standards?

And who knows maybe Michael Petraeus as well as Charles Chong are both intended beneficiaries of the infamous Clause 61 and will be allowed to continue to mislead and meddle unhindered under the POFMA regime while legitimate concerns by citizens are shut down?

It is a distinct possibility because they are already doing it with the existing rules and laws anyway.

Are you worried?

This post was first published on Mr Bowyer’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission

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