by Teo Soh Lung
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) accused the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) on 14 Dec 2019 of having a “singular objective – to stoke fear and anxiety among local PMETs” when it published two facebook postings and an article.
The SDP responded yesterday (2 Jan 2020) in these words:
“Clearly, the MOM has used the law for political-partisan purposes to stymie legitimate criticism of the PAP’s foreign PMET policy that has been and continues to be unfair to Singaporeans. That the general election is not far away makes our case even more salient.”
If Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) is to have legitimate authority going forward, then Ms Teo must apologise to the SDP.
Accusing a party of making “false statements of fact” is a serious matter and should be done only with the highest of standards and irrefutable evidence.
Under such circumstances, we call on the Minister to not only retract the Correction Directions but also issue an immediate, unambiguous and public apology to the SDP and undertake not to make such similar acts in future, failing which we will be obliged to pursue the matter in a court of law.”
I am impressed with SDP’s statement especially the final paragraph. Yes, retract, apologise and undertake not to repeat a wrong have always been the language of the powerful. Now a small opposition party has used it on the mighty government.
POFMA is a law that only benefits the People’s Action Party (PAP) government. Its legitimacy or rather legality lies merely on the fact that the law was passed by the PAP’s supermajority in parliament. This law can never be just or beneficial to the people because it allows ministers to issue directions and require appeals against such directions to go through the ministers who issued the directions. The ministers as part of the Executive has therefore been given judicial powers which should belong exclusively to the Judiciary since our constitution guarantees the separation of powers.
A government that shuts out all criticisms and opinions by using its laws against citizens who do not use or encourage violence, is a government that is afraid of its own citizens.
It is a government that fails to realise that blindly following past practices of enacting more and harsher laws to protect itself is detrimental to the development of Singapore and her hard-working, creative and patient people. It is a government that no longer knows how to govern.