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The three laws which must be reviewed, repealed and replaced are: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