SINGAPORE — Oversight of executive action by the judiciary, and a more precise scoping of executive powers to significantly lower the likelihood of abuse of power are needed in a controversial new foreign interference law, said the Workers' Party (WP) on Wednesday (29 September).
In this regard, Singapore's leading opposition party has given notice to the Clerk of Parliament to table its proposed amendments to the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill at its second reading on 4 October.
The Notices of Amendment were filed by Members of Parliament Gerald Giam, Jamus Lim, Leon Perera and He Ting Ru on Wednesday. Among others, the WP asserts that the changes will result in "greater clarity and transparency" on the identities of the entities and individuals against whom, and reasons for which, any directive, order or decision under the Bill is made.
"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" said the WP, which added that it will canvass fuller arguments at the Parliamentary debate on the Bill.
The first reading of the Bill took place in Parliament on 13 September. The ruling People's Action Party currently holds 83 of 93 seats.
The proposed Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act, or FICA, will empower the Minister for Home Affairs to order takedowns of content deemed to be part of hostile information campaigns (HIC).
It will also enable the minister to compel, among others, social media companies and persons who run websites, blogs or social media pages, to disclose information to help investigate and counter hostile communications activity that is of foreign origin.
On Tuesday, social media giant Facebook's global head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher told reporters that while it agreed with the goal of tackling foreign interference, it found that the proposed law was worded "very broadly", according to local media reports.
Some 33 arts and civil society organisations in Singapore have also endorsed a public statement and petition calling for a Select Committee to be convened to carry out extensive public consultation, in place of passing FICA. The petition, called "Say no to unfettered power! Rethink FICA!", has so far attracted more than 4,400 signatures.
The organisations cited "public disquiet" over how quickly the Singapore government wants to push an expansive 249-page bill with "serious repercussions" for freedom of expression, freedom of association, and privacy through Parliament.
A parliamentary petition in support of the demands in the public petition has also been handed over to the Progress Singapore Party’s Non-Constituency MPs.
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