Learning well from US President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his second-in-command Law Minister K Shanmugam are dismissing online criticisms as fake news. Unfortunately for Singaporeans, the country is not a democracy and any media being labelled a “fake news” means a lengthy jail term. States Times Review was singled out by the Law Minister a year ago in April, as a “fake news” website created to “make money” from untrue stories.
In the first Parliament session of 2018, Law Minister K Shanmugam erected for the first time in 30 years: a “green paper” proposal, to set up a PAP-led committee to create new laws. The foul-mouthed lawyer did not even bother to create a facade of due process and openly sat himself in the Select Committee, which he claimed would make “independent” assessments. His intention is clear, STR will be the first on his chopping board once the Select Committee legalised the new censorship laws.
Honestly speaking, from a strategic point of view, 2018 is a perfect year to impose whatever new laws they like without worrying about popularity – it sits in the middle of the 5 year-term, and the 2020 election is too far away. Nobody would remember what new laws they passed, who they jailed or which website they shut down in 2018.
The ruling party is losing popularity due to ineffectual policies and the misguided direction the country was leaded into. More Singaporeans are disagreeing with the government in many areas, especially in public transport, elderly poverty, CPF retirement and the slew of tax increase. Losing popularity also means losing public confidence and trust. Coupled with official denials and out-of-the-world excuses by the ruling party, Singaporeans are getting disillusioned and turning to apathy. “Say whatever you like and do whatever you want,” most would say.
The ruling party however thrives on public apathy and ignorance. A perfect example is CPF, which saw it’s retirement age increased by 10 years and Minimum Sum doubled from it’s original design in 2003. Lee Hsien Loong and his wife happily controls the MAS, MOF, GIC and Temasek Holdings, while all the tweaks and twists in CPF rules in the past 15 years were passed without a single public consultation – there is no need to anyway.
A growing minority could see the dangers where the country is heading, and took up national service to criticise the ruling party. This right to criticise will soon be outlawed once they are legally labelled as “fake news” or “online falsehoods”. The ruling party believe they can recover their popularity so long people stop criticising or make public their disagreements. They want to return to the good old 1980s where everyone reads only the government newspapers Straits Times.
Personally for PM Lee, there lies a more sinister intent: his legacy. The PM wants to be respected by everyone likes his father, and he thought that an iron-fisted control is all he needs. Lee Hsien Loong would like a statue, or a prestigious university named after him. So, brace yourself for more censorship laws to make all these a reality for him.