People’s Action Party flags have been put up at Marine Parade shortly after the general election was called. This seemed to contravene the ruling that  political party flags can only be displayed from the close of Nomination Day on June 30.

So the Singapore Democratic Party promptly asked the Elections Department (ELD) “to clarify the legal status of displaying party’s flags in public places.”

The response from ELD should come as no surprise to anyone.

TODAY reported that according to ELD, as the period of campaigning by political parties for the GE has not started, the rules relating to the display of posters and banners under the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations do not currently apply.

“Once the campaign period starts, the display of posters and banners must be subject to a permit that is issued by the Returning Officer,” a spokesperson from ELD said.

A volunteer at the Marine Parade PAP branch office, who declined to be named, told TODAY that the PAP flags are put up “as part of National Day celebrations.”

If the ELD’s response is not surprising, it’s because we have past incidents to go by.

During the 2011 GE, a police complaint was lodged against Member of Parliament Tin Pei Ling for flouting Cooling Off Day regulations. The MP said it was a mistake by one of her administrators –  the police ended the case by issuing a stern warning to Tin’s friend for violating the Parliamentary Elections Act.

Subsequently, in the 2015 GE, Minister Vivian Balakrishnan made a Facebook post after midnight on Cooling Off Day. But he was let off the hook after Facebook concurred with the Minister that there was a bug in their technical system which led to the auto-posted tweet linked to the Minister’s Facebook page.

But others have not been so fortunate. In May 2016, police reports were filed by the Assistant Returning Officer from the ELD against socio-political site, The Independent Singapore and two individuals, Teo Soh Lung and Roy Ngerng for “several online articles and postings that may be tantamount to election advertising, on Cooling-Off Day and Polling Day of the recent Bukit Batok by-election”

Ngerng and Teo were called up for a two-hour interview at the Cantonment Police station, after which the police escorted the two back to their respective homes to raid their premises. In total, three laptops, one desktop, two hard drives, memory cards, and both their mobile phones were seized by the police.

The Workers’ Party followed up by urging the authorities to ensure that consistency and proportionality are applied to all investigations. It also said others who were reported for similar violations in the past “were not known to have faced the same lengthy interviews, and searches and seizures of personal equipment”.

Today, has the landscape changed? Is there consistency in the way rules and regulations are applied?

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