International human rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has responded to Law Minister K Shanmugam’s taunt, slamming him of making “irrelevant and ridiculous” arguments in the public hearing:
“It is now clear that the purpose of the hearing was not to discuss our findings and recommendations in good faith, or to get our input into dealing with deliberate online falsehoods in a manner consistent with international standards, but to engage in ridiculous and irrelevant arguments aimed to discredit our report and Human Rights Watch.”
The HRW representative was unable to attend the public hearing in Singapore, resulting in Law Minister K Shanmugam lodging baseless allegations accusing the HRW of not being able to support their criticisms on the dictatorship.
Former PAP MP Vikram Nair, the representative of ruling party PAP, accused the HRW of publishing a “report full of falsehoods”, pushing for the authorities to take actions against HRW and it’s representative. The HRW representative then chose to absent himself from attending the Singapore meeting, believe to be made for his own safety.
You may read HRW’s response to Minister K Shanmugam in full here:
“On October 30, 2017, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to four senior members of Singapore’s government requesting their input and response to the findings of our research for our 133-page report, “‘Kill the Chicken to Scare the Monkeys’: Suppression of Free Expression and Assembly in Singapore.” The report analyzes the laws and regulations used by the Singapore government to suppress the rights to free speech and peaceful assembly, including the Public Order Act, the Sedition Act, the Broadcasting Act, various penal code provisions, and laws on criminal contempt. The letter, a copy of which is included in an appendix of the report, was sent to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, and Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan. Human Rights Watch received no response by the time of publication of the report on December 13, 2017. We still have not received a response.
As the government has not disputed our factual findings and has not replied to our recommendations, which were offered in good faith to promote and protect free expression and peaceful assembly in Singapore, it is both ironic and absurd that the Ministry of Law and members of the ruling People’s Action Party are now accusing Human Rights Watch of being unwilling to defend our report.
The Singapore parliament invited Human Rights Watch to give evidence about “Deliberate Online Falsehoods.” Human Rights Watch has no staff based in Singapore. We offered to send the relevant staff member on a particular date, but the committee did not confirm a date that could work for our staff until after we had made other commitments. As we said in our response to parliament, we look forward to reading any submissions and will respond if we think it is necessary and appropriate. To date, no submission has raised any serious question about our factual findings. We have also offered to meet with government officials in Singapore or elsewhere, or relevant parliamentarians, at a mutually convenient date to discuss the report.
It is now clear that the purpose of the hearing was not to discuss our findings and recommendations in good faith, or to get our input into dealing with “deliberate online falsehoods” in a manner consistent with international standards, but to engage in ridiculous and irrelevant arguments aimed to discredit our report and Human Rights Watch. The people of Singapore are not served by a government and ruling party that appears to be more interested in public grandstanding than having a substantive discussion about threats to the internationally protected rights to freedom of expression and assembly.”