In part 1 of the article, I had explained how the government had not been able to effectively use any law to curtail Singaporeans. The licensing requirement that the Media Development Authority (MDA) had introduced was thus aimed at doing that.
Part 1 of the article can be read here.
But before we understand the licensing requirement further, let’s understand why the laws had become ineffective towards Singaporeans.
Why The Laws Could Not Help The Government
There are some reasons why the government’s use of the law against the people has been severely weakened:
- First, these laws (defamation, sedition etc) were developed and modified for use against the politicians from opposition parties and union members. When laws are used against institutionalised figures, as much as it is unfair, there is perceived legitimacy because institutions are not seen as “people”, per se. Thus if the government switches to using the law to attack “innocent” singular Singaporeans who do not belong to any institutions, such a use becomes a threat not only to that individual, but to all Singaporeans because any one of us can be at risk of irrational and random threats by the government, and which is why if the laws are used, Singaporeans will indefinitely band together.
- Second, these laws are “post-action”, which means that they can only be used as a form of “punishment”, after a perceived “wrongdoing” has occurred. But when viewed as a “punishment”, this is precisely why it will backfire on the government – only the government considers the action done as “wrongful” and deserving of punishment, whereas most other Singaporeans do not. So, these laws cannot be effected since no “wrongdoing” has been committed in the first place.
- Third, if the laws were not designed to be used against the “common” Singaporean, the effect of the law is lost since the government cannot “go all the way” with the law. It fails right where it starts.
- Fourth, and importantly, if the government cannot go all the way with the law, they cannot financially penalise Singaporeans. There are hefty penalties that come with being sued for defamation or sedition, but if these laws cannot be used or even started, there is no way the people could be hurt financially.
So, putting all these into perspective, what can the government do?
- The government would need to create or ride on an existing non-law instrument that can curtail the rights of Singaporeans. A law cannot be used since it is a punishment instrument. Thus a regulation might work better – in effect, a regulation imposes that individuals self-regulate – this is a “pre-action” tactic by the government. If you cannot punish the individual for committing an “action”, you prevent the individual from doing it.
- Also, the reason why the government’s plan to use the law against individuals had failed time and time again was because the Internet was a very powerful tool that could rally other Singaporeans into action. If the government wants to sue these individuals, they would not want any interruptions from other Singaporeans, so if they could curb any online dissent, they could effectively be able to sue these individuals all the way.
Let’s be very clear at this point. There are multiple strategies that the government is using at this point.
- Since last year, the government had embarked on identifying individuals from organizations which they could take to court as being corrupt. This strategic move is to show to Singaporeans, as well as to the world, how non-corrupt the Singapore government seems to be.
- The attack onto netizens was meant to follow that, not only because the government wants to rein the netizens in, but because the netizens were preventing the government to run their strategy according to their plan. If netizens were to report on the truth, how many of these “corrupt” cases could eventually be passed through? It would be severely embarrassing for the government if they could not prove that the people put up top slay were indeed criminals.
Finally, and most importantly – the one thing that the government had always has up its sleeves is the use of money. With the laws which they were rendered helpless under, no matter how much money they could scare the shit out of those sued, they simply couldn’t use it against ordinary Singaporeans. With this “new licensing requirement”, the government could easily whip any amount out of the air and hold Singaporeans accountable to it.
Now, of course, there isn’t a logical reasoning as to how the $50,000 came about. The real deal is this – this amount has to be large enough so that Singaporeans would feel the pinch yet not too big such that the government is perceived to be unreasonable. And to justify it? You just need to look at what other performance bond that you currently have that uses the $50,000 mark and explain to people, well, look here, we have something which is similar so we are not trying to play punk here. But of course they are! – $50,000 for broadcasting companies which makes millions in profits and no less, linked to the state, is quite different from $50,000 on non-profit volunteer-run outfits. It’s simply not comparing apples to apples.
Any philosopher, mathematician and economist would tell you that the government has gone bonkers. But of course not for this government – the performance bond is not calculated upon principles of fairness. It is calculated for maximal attack.
So, you see, it’s not all that simple. The government has had a plan and Singaporeans have managed to put their finger on it every step of the way
The reason why the government wants to act against Singaporeans online? They cannot look good anymore and they need to start coming down hard on the common people.
In part 2 of this article, I will discuss how the government intends to use this “new licensing requirement” and how they would eventually extend it to your doorstep.
Part 3 of the article will be released tomorrow morning. This is Part 2 of 3 articles.