People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP) Charles Chong did not object the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)’s report that implies Singapore’s present electoral system is “unfair”, said APHR’s executive director, Teodoro Brawner Baguilat, Jr.
On Thursday (18 June), APHR conducted a virtual press conference via Zoom which was broadcast live on Facebook prior to its report titled “In Singapore, an Already Unfair Vote Undermined by COVID-19” that was released on the same day.
In its report, APHR stated that the electoral process in Singapore is “unfair from the start and entrenches a process that prevents any genuine political competition or free choice at the ballot”.
“Opposition candidates face insurmountable challenges not only to run in elections, but also for their message to reach eligible voters, due to a short campaigning period and strict media restrictions,” it explained.
The non-government organisation (NGO) asserted that the authorities in Singapore continue to use “draconian laws” to target political opponents and “muzzle other critical voices”, which resulted in a “limited civic space”.
APHR noted that even the COVID-related measures, such as those under the Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Act 2020, pose obstacles in ensuring “a fair campaigning process during the pandemic, or protect the voting rights for specific groups, particularly the sick and overseas voters”.
“Overseas Singaporean voters will need to either return to the country or register to cast their vote in one of the few polling stations outside the country,” it stated. “With the limited flights and other travel restrictions imposed due to the virus, it is likely to be challenging for them to reach these stations or return to their place of residence without being quarantined.”
With regards to the report, APHR was asked – during its online press conference – on the review it received from the Deputy Speaker Charles Chong, who is board member of APHR and also the Chairman of the Select Committee on Deliberate Falsehoods.
In response, Mr Baguilat said that the report has been sent “digitally” to all board members, including Mr Chong, before it was released on Thursday.
He explained that APHR has to follow a certain protocol before releasing any media statements or reports, in which the report must be sent to board members in advance for review.
“We send our reports or media statements digitally to board members, either through email, Whatsapp or other social media apps. Then we ask them to comment on the report,” said Mr Baguilat.
If there is no comment from the board members, APHR will assume that the report is generally accepted because “nobody objects”.
“There was no reaction from MP Charles Chong,” he noted.
Mr Baguilat asserted that he cannot speak for Mr Chong or other board members, adding that a few board members did express their concerns about the report, while some of them have “actually expressed approval”.
“So generally we feel that the board members have made their decision to approve this report that we have released just now,” he remarked.