THE TEMASEK TIMES

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Repeal repressive laws curtailing freedom of speech before national dialogue can take place

Posted by temasektimes on August 12, 2012

In his National Day speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asked Singaporeans what future they want for the nation and implored them to offer their frank views to build a national consensus to take us forward.

Before that becomes a reality, the government should repeal three repressive and archaic laws curtailing the freedom of speech which have no place in a modern democratic nation like ours.

How can Singaporeans be expected to speak up and contribute positively to the national dialogue when they are constantly living in fear of reprisals?

The three laws which must be reviewed, repealed and replaced are:

1. Internal Security Act:

The Internal Security Act (ISA) was first introduced in 1961 by the British to cope with the communist threat and had been used by the ruling party from the 1960s to 1980s to eliminate its political opponents.

Though it is used sparingly nowadays to deal with suspected terrorists, there is still a lingering fear in the populace that it may be used again by the government to quash dissident voices.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in 1994 that Singapore will consider abolishing the ISA if Malaysia does so. Now that Malaysia has abolished the ISA, it is time the government convened a national dialogue to discuss with Singaporeans the continued relevance of this repressive law in our society.

The ISA should be replaced by a Anti-terrorism Act to deal specifically with terrorism to prevent it from being abused again in the future by government leaders to fix their political opponents under the pretext of public interest and social security.

2. Sedition Act:

The Sedition Act again is a relic of the British colonial times and serves no useful purpose in Singapore today other than to discourage Singaporeans from speaking up and criticizing the government.

Its ambiguous definition of ‘any speech promoting unrest’ gives the authorities broad sweeping powers to clamp down on political dissent in the name of ‘public interest’ and opens the door to possible abuse of power.

Singapore already has laws in place to guard against racist and religious extremism such as the Racial Harmony Act which can replace the Sedition Act.

3. Newspaper and press printing Act:

A real, frank and meaningful dialogue between citizens and the government is impossible so long the mainstream media remains a propaganda machinery of the state.

Instead of reflecting the genuine concerns of Singaporeans on the ground, the state media is now no more but a propaganda mouthpiece of the ruling party to enforce their views from tops-down and to suppress alternative view points.

In order for all Singaporeans to have a stake in the nation and to allow diverse views to be aired publicly, the Newspaper and Press Printing Act must be repealed immediately.

The government should sell its stake in the Singapore Press Holdings which should be dismantled and its subsidiaries sold to the highest private bidder.

Businessmen, entrepreneurs and companies should be permitted to set up media companies and print their newspapers and foreign media companies be allowed to sell their papers openly in Singapore.

Only when there is a free and unfettered flow of information can the government be truly in touch with the sentiments and aspirations of Singaporeans.

It’s time Singaporeans get to read the news they want to read and not what the government wants us to.

 

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8 Responses to “Repeal repressive laws curtailing freedom of speech before national dialogue can take place”

  1. spotlessleopard said

    These Law are resoposible for a good percentage of the people who leave Singapore for good….For every good citizen lost to other countries Singapore imports 2nd and 3rd. rate citizens in multiples of 3..replacing useless numbers for loss of valuable numbers…Shame on the PAP for not doing the correct thing for the Nation and still clinging onto power thru repressive means.

  2. jngling said

    you are not the government and you have no right to dictate what is necessary for a ‘dialogue’…imagine the majority Singaporean that are either daft or idiotic and low class HDB dwellers…you really expect an open dialogue?! com’on, just read this blog and the number of idiotic comments running around! Get a Life and m i glad for once there is real true and democratic ruling party in Singapore! if not, vote them out instead of asking for an open dialogue.

  3. P Koh said

    This is by far one of the smartest postings that I have read and it is indeed representative of how the populace have been cowered into obedience for fear of reprisals. Indeed ISA must be removed as there are sufficient laws to bring people who threaten the very security and peaceful existence of the country, to court to justify their actions and deeds if found wanting for prosecution but not necessarily put away for years without trial.

  4. kaypoh said

    Well thought out article! Kudos TT!

  5. TEETOO said

    I agree. This are the obstacles that the citizen are facing.

  6. Robert said

    Over the past year, I have had many things to complain about living in Singapore, high COE and housing prices, crowded trains that break down, buses that take forever to come and jammed roads.

    As I read my Facebook updates on my phone (while being pushed and shoved on the train), I silently agree with every comment posted on how everything is the government’s fault and that our ministers should do something about the situation. What happened to Singapore being first and world-class in everything?

    But a question that has bugged me is: What is it that I want done? What kind of Singapore do I want? I know what I don’t want: I don’t want high housing prices; I want fewer foreigners; I don’t want high COE.

    Then I heard PM Lee talking about Heng Swee Keat’s committee to “rethink policies”. I immediately thought it’s wayang. Do they really want our feedback? Would they make changes that matter to me? Or just another PR exercise again?

    I think it is hard to say. Since the GE, the government taken some action after a lot of complaints and after losing a GRC for the first time. This may seem like a knee-jerk reaction by the PAP Government to placate the masses, especially after Aljunied was won by the WP. But at least they have changed some things!

    The immigration problem – the government has done things like raise foreign worker levies, reduce the quota for foreign workers that a company can hire, and tightened the requirements for EPs and work permits.

    COE – they have recently removed taxis from the COE bidding process, something that many of us have been calling for. But COE is still high. What else can be done? Why not a quota system? But it has to be fair… who gets to be part of the quota who gets a better chance, who does not? Young families with one kid? How about those with old parents? Based on such principles and we include young families and families with older parents? How about those singles whose workplace is far away? How do we make sure that do not end up with a black market after a ballot i.e. like NDP tickets and people who cheat the system?

    Maybe it’s really all for show. Maybe it’s the government’s genuine attempt to start a conversation. Maybe if all true Singaporeans – oppos, pappies, gahmen people – talk to each other, rather than just talking with each other, maybe something will be done. But like buying Toto, don’t buy sure have no chance. So I think we should all just join in this “national conversation” and see what the government does with it.

    So I’m going to hold the government to its word, give them some of my thoughts, see what they say and do, then I’ll decide if this time, they are really going to listen.

  7. P Koh said

    There is enough written in TT for the goernment to know what is bugging the people. PM wants a Singaporean Singapore but this will take a long time. It has taken 40plus years for us to get to the Singaporean Identity having gone through the rough and tough times including racial riots in the 60s. So, it will take a much longer time for new citizens to assimilate into our society and itegration is not going to be easy given the big cultural difference and divergence of nationalities coming to our shore. Talk is always easy but human emotions is the hardest thing to handle when conflicts of the heart arises. It would really be interesting to see wha the White Paper holds at the end of this year.

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