A business set up to teach democratic values through a workshop training called “Democracy Classroom” has been banned by the Singapore government. The business is proposed by website New Naratif, set up by journalist Kirsten Han and Oxford historian Dr Thum Ping Tjin. The two were previously admonished by Law Minister K Shanmugam during the public hearings on online falsehoods, when they disagreed and opposed having a new censorship regime.
The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) in their press release on yesterday (April 13) said that the proposed business, OSEA Pte Ltd, and it’s “democracy lessons” are funded by foreigners and hence it entails foreign influence in domestic politics:
“The website New Naratif’s political activities in Singapore would appear to be funded by a number of foreigners. A statement by New Naratif stated it has received funding from over 420 members in 17 different countries. In other words, its political activities in Singapore would appear to be funded by a number of foreigners – not only foreign entities like Open Society Foundation (OSF) but also citizens of foreign countries.”
The New Naratif hit back stating that there is no political agenda funded by any foreigner, but the government took issues with it’s funding. ACRA specifically singled out a foundation linked to American billionaire George Soros, which was set up to promote democracy in dictatorship regimes:
“But we note the statement confirmed New Naratif received a grant from OSF or Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI)…The fact that FOSI or OSF – and possibly all 420 of its foreign donors – may not be involved in the day-to-day running of the website, or New Naritif’s other activities in Singapore, even if true, does not detract from the fact that the registration of OSEA Pte Ltd would amount to allowing a foreign entity or foreigners to fund and influence political activities in Singapore.”