Presented by Leong Mun Wai (Non-constituency Member of the Parliament)
To the Honourable Members of the Parliament of the Republic of Singapore, in
The humble Petition of _______________________________ and others of like opinion.
SHOWETH AS FOLLOWS:
Petition Seeking Further Consultation and Scrutiny of the Foreign Interference
1. To the Honourable the Members of Parliament, Singapore, in the meeting assembled, the undersigned, hereby present this Petition to Parliament to delay the passage of the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill (Bill No. 24/2021) [“the Bill”] pending further discussions and consultations with stakeholders and citizens.
2. The Bill contains extremely broad definitions that serve as a catch-all for a wide range of activities. If enacted, the law will have serious ramifications for multiple stakeholders and large sections of society, including academia, business, civil society, and the media.
3. The Bill proposes giving vast powers to the Minister for Home Affairs, allowing him to issue directives that can censor content online, ban apps from being downloaded in the country, or essentially criminalise the financing of online media platforms.
4. The Bill will also allow authorities appointed by the Minister for Home Affairs to designate entities or individuals as “politically significant persons”. Once designated, such entities and individuals would be required to adhere to an onerous range of reporting obligations, and could have their right to freedom of association unilaterally curbed.
5. Avenues of appeal are limited by the Bill. They are essentially restricted to only a Reviewing Tribunal, or the Minister for Home Affairs. Judicial review in open court is limited only to procedural matters.
6. Laws have permanent and far reaching consequences for a society. Negative outcomes may be the unintentional consequences of insufficiently precise language, definitions, and tests. Legislation may be complicated, time consuming, and costly in financial and social terms to amend later, especially after they are in place for some time. This can affect legislative and administrative efficiency adversely. Singaporeans have an interest in a law that is more resistant to the potential for misinterpretation, misapplication, or even abuse in future.
7. Making the effort to widely consult on, carefully consider, and rigorously deliberate the full range of implications and consequences of the current Bill can pave the way for a more robust legislation that better serves the intention of the Bill and Singapore’s national interests. Given this Bill’s importance, getting it right from the outset is critical for Singapore and Singaporeans.
NOW WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, PRAY that the Honourable Members of Parliament take steps to:
a) Delay passage of the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill into Law pending greater and more extensive public consultation on the implementation, effects, and implications of the Bill for the general public; and,
b) Refer this Bill to a Select Committee for further consultation and deliberation on the appropriateness and the necessity of the measures contained with the Bill, with adequate representation from a variety of stakeholders.
There were eight signatories on the parliamentary petition that was submitted by Leong Mun Wai of the Progress Singapore Party. This is in support of the public petition that can be found here.