This transcript is also available in Chinese.
I am Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Chairman of Progress Singapore Party. I would like to spend a moment to share with you our serious concerns about a bill that will be tabled for second reading and likely passed as law in Parliament soon. This is the Foreign Interference Counter measures Act or FICA.
From the title of the bill, it would seem a reasonable piece of law upholding the international principle that no country should interfere with the affairs of another country. We fully support non interference. It is the basis for international peace and cooperation between countries. Singapore being a small nation does not wish nor can afford to have foreign interference in our own domestic affairs. And safeguarding ourselves from undue foreign interference is prudent
However, this bill that is going to Parliament for a second reading prior to its becoming law, has much more than the title suggests. To begin with, it consists of 249 pages of details covering many areas from definitions of Politically Significant Persons or entities to rules governing political donations and disclosure as well as requirements for operating of online sites and the various directives affecting various stakeholders. What is significant is the extensive powers given to the ministers to execute the bill. Such power can lead to abuses especially when many areas are vaguely defined and decisions are left to the discretion of ministers who could simply act based on suspicion. It seems a bill that gives the government far more reaching power and latitude to prosecute than the POFMA bill.
The urgency with which this bill is being pushed through is troubling especially at a time when there are much more urgent matters that the country is facing like the current pandemic
The FICA Bill is due for second reading on 4 Oct. The second and third readings usually happen together. Which means from introduction of the Bill on 13 Sep to second and third readings on 4 Oct, the process takes only 3 weeks! What is the hurry for such a lengthy piece of legislation to be brought through Parliament and pass as law in 3 weeks?
Besides, there simply isn’t enough time for all MPs to thoroughly study and understand the impact and implications of the bill to meaningfully participate in any robust deliberations.
The significance of this Bill which no doubt will impact all political parties and citizens who hold out views in public domain, requires Public Consultation and scrutiny by a Select Committee before the Bill is introduced in Parliament. Again, what is the great hurry to push through the Bill at this time instead of having a consultative process for stakeholders and interested parties to give their inputs?
Given that this FICA bill has lots of implications and potential for abuse, the second reading should not proceed until a comprehensive review of the bill has been carried out.
POFMA is a much shorter piece of legislation. Yet it went through the process of both Public consultations and review by a Select Committee. This Bill surely cannot be less far reaching than POFMA.
While the title of the bill maybe simple, the intention must be clear. Is it to really prevent foreign interference? Or is it a means to stifle freedom of expression, alternative views and political discourse in the name of foreign interference. Unless the bill gets a thorough public hearing, it is irresponsible of the government to push it through hastily over 3 weeks!
Singaporeans deserve better!
Transcript in Chinese
防止外来干预（对应措施）法案 / FICA
必须特别关注的是这提案将赋予部长们广泛的执行权力。这种权力可能因为许多的定义含糊不清，导致部长们可以单凭一己怀疑而随意采取法律行动，滥用权力。与 POFMA （防止网络假信息和网络操纵法令）法案相比，FICA似乎赋予政府更大的权限和起诉自由度。
政府在国家目前面对疫情还在快速扩散的时候，理应还有很多更迫切的问题需要处理。然而政府迫不及待的想通过此法案的做法，令人深感不安。 FICA 提案将于 10 月 4 日进行二读。二读和三读通常同时进行。也就是说，从提案9月13日出台到10月4日的二读和三读，整个过程就仅仅只需短短的3个星期！我们要问的是，内涵如此多及影响如此深远的法案， 为何急着要在 3 周内草草通过国会并成为立法？
鉴于 FICA 所可能带来的深远影响及被滥用的可能性，我们认为提案在进行全面审查之前不应进行二读。