[Editor’s Note: While reading the following article and an anonymous response from the TodayOnline.com reader, it sets me thinking ….
“Most of the mainstream media are controlled by government-linked companies, and the few independent news websites that exist are wary of strict defamation laws that government leaders have often used to silence critics.
Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 World Press Freedom Index ranked Singapore 153rd of 180 countries, below Gambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.” – Yahoo News
While I am not a fan of SDP and am not an expert in constitution law, if “Tom” is right, many Singaporeans certainly are not aware that Freedom of Speech (updated 16Dec2012: strangely the page seems to have been removed, conspiracy? see alternate source) is provided for by the founding members of Modern Singapore. What is scary to me is
(1) will PAP government change this particular section “for the better good of Singapore” since PAP government has an overwhelmingly majority in the parliament to change the consitution (see note 1) easily and their intolerance for any public demonstration or any form of peaceful protests?
(2) assuming some potential charismatic leaders were to rally against certain unpopular PAP government policies or in a remote event that a corrupted PAP strong man come into power in future, the opposition/demonstration leaders will be easily arrested under the pretext of ensuring national security under the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA). Will an equivalent of Gandi, Martin Luthur King, Kim Dae Jung, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and the likes will ever have a reasonable chance to emerge in Singapore? The sheer thought of it is indeed worrisome and in my humble opinion does not bode well for the future of Singapore.
Time has changed and threats have evolved, the ISA should be replaced with Terrorist Acts instead to keep up with the time. That will be a good first step for a responsible government to put in place a system for peaceful uprising should a need arise, however remote it may be.]
Note 1: The constitution can be amended with the support of more than two-thirds of the members of parliament on the second and third readings. (Source: Wikipedia)
Exerpt from Roy Ngerng’s
The Singapore Government Clamped Down on Singaporeans’ Rights and Free Speech
In 1963, the current government launched a political attack on more than a hundred opposition members, and labour and student unionists. They detained these Singaporeans under the Internal Security Act (ISA), and without trial.
Some of these Singaporeans were imprisoned for more than 30 years and released only when they are very old, when the government felt that they no longer could pose a political threat to the regime.
Recent revelations by the British archives showed that the Singapore government had no reason whatsoever to arrest these Singaporeans. The government claimed that the people they arrested were communist insurgents but it has been revealed that when the British intelligence had then investigated, they found no evidence of this.
Over the next few decades, the government continued to use the ISA against Singaporeans who spoke up against the government’s policies.
In 1987, another more than 20 activists, social workers and lawyers were rounded up and imprisoned, some by more than two years, before the government was pressured to release them after more than 200 organisations around the world protested against the Singapore government’s actions.
From the late 1980s, the government started to use the defamation law to sue opposition politicians to bankrupt them and to prevent them from running for elections. The defamation law was also used against the international media if they were to critique the Singapore government. An opposition party member was sued for more than $8 million.
By last year, the defamation law, Sedition Act and the charge of Contempt of Court were also used against ordinary Singaporeans.
Even as the Singapore Constitution allows for the freedom of speech and expression, as well as the freedom to assemble and protest, the government has but then made it illegal for a group of five people or more to assemble. In 2009, the government created the Public Order Act to make it illegal for even one person to protest.
The only space that Singaporeans are allowed to protest today is at the Hong Lim Park, in a secluded part of town. However, two weeks ago, the government backtracked on this and charged six Singaporeans for joining a protest there.
SDP Chairman Gandhi Ambalam fined $1,000 for taking part in illegal public assembly
Source: Todayonline Oct 30, 2010
Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chairman Gandhi Ambalam was given the maximum fine of $1,000 on Friday for participating in a public assembly without a permit.
The 67-year-old member of the opposition party had taken part in the event with 11 others in front of Block 190, Toa Payoh Lorong 6, on Aug 9, 2008. The assembly was part of an event referred to as the “Tak Boleh Tahan” or “Cannot Take It Any More” campaign against the GST and the cost of living.
Five of SDP’s Central Executive Committee members, including secretary-general Chee Soon Juan, were each fined between $900 and $1,000 last week. Shaffiq Alkhatib
SDP leaders fined for assembly without permit
Source: Todayonline Oct 20, 2010
Five central executive committee members of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), including its secretary-general Chee Soon Juan, were each fined between $900 and $1,000 yesterday for participating in a public assembly without a permit.
Another three persons – including blogger Yap Keng Ho, 49 – were also fined for their involvement in the political party’s “Tak Boleh Tahan” (“Cannot Take It Anymore”) campaign, which took place in front of Blk 190, Toa Payoh Lor 6 on National Day two years ago.
Chee, 48, who was given the maximum fine of $1,000, told the court that they will be appealing against their conviction and sentence.
SDP chairman Ghandi Karuppiah Ambalam, 67, who was also convicted for being part of the assembly, will be sentenced at a later date as he had disputed his antecedents. He will be back in court on Oct 29.
Earlier, three others who had pleaded guilty to the offence, including lawyer Chia Ti Lik, 36, were fined $600 to $800 each for taking part in the campaign. Shaffiq Alkhatib (Source:TodayOnline)