Workers' Party proposes amendments to foreign interference bill for 'oversight', 'greater clarity & transparency'

The Workers' Party will elaborate more in the Parliament sitting on Oct. 4 (Monday).

Sulaiman Daud | September 30, 2021, 10:30 PM

The Workers' Party (WP) has filed amendments to the bill aimed at countering foreign interference, which the government introduced in Parliament in early September.

In an announcement released on the night of Sep. 29, WP said, "While The Workers’ Party believes in the legitimate need to counter malign acts of foreign interference, we disagree with the current form of the Bill in achieving the said objective."

It added that these amendments aimed to include "oversight of Executive action by the Judiciary", a more "precise scoping" of the government's powers to "significantly lower the likelihood of abuse of power".

The Amendments proposed by WP

The WP wants to have "greater clarity and transparency" for when the directives in the Bill are used, including the identities of the entities and people they're used on, and the reasons why.

Members of Parliament (MPs) Gerald Giam, Jamus Lim, Leon Perera and He Ting Ru filed amendments broadly aimed at achieving this within the Bill.

Gerald Giam's amendments

The Bill defines what actions would be considered "directed towards a political end", and therefore affected by the powers granted to the Home Affairs Minister.

Giam's amendments would remove a couple of those definitions, including actions that "influence, or seek to influence, any aspect or to promote or oppose political views, or public conduct relating to activities that have become the subject of a political debate, in Singapore."

Jamus Lim's amendments

The Bill includes a clause defining which activities are exempt from its own reach (Clause 120).

Lim's amendments would also exempt:

  • An activity undertaken by Singaporeans to exercise their right to discuss politics by expressing their own views on political matters, unless they are agents of a foreign principal, and;
  • An activity undertaken by foreign individuals or foreign publications reporting or commenting on Singapore politics, in an open, transparent and attributable way, even if their comments may be critical of Singapore or the Government.

Leon Perera's amendments

Part 4 of the Bill deals with the government's new classification of certain individuals as "Politically Significant Persons (PSP)."

One of Perera's amendments would ensure that any person classed as a PSP would be listed on a registry provided free-of-charge, and easily accessible to the public. The reasons for the designation would also be made public.

However, an exception would be made if national security is a concern.

Another of Perera's amendments also calls for transparency directives (in Clause 81), modifications and cancellations, and the explanations for these decisions, to be made publicly available over the Internet, and downloadable free-of-charge.

He Ting Ru's amendments

Clause 104 of the Bill deals with "limited judicial review" of the decisions made by the Minister.

He's amendments would allow the High Court to hear appeals against decisions made under this new law. The current wording of the Bill only allows for an appeal to be heard by an independent reviewing tribunal, which comprises of a sitting High Court judge and two persons outside of the Government.

You can see their post below:

Top image from Workers' Party's Facebook page.