Relooking at POFMA

Real news about fake news. Parliament sits again on 6 May, with POFMA or the fake news bill being up for the second reading. Expect the debate to be a marathon one by Singapore’s standard, taking several days.

What are the ‘readings’? First reading is when the minister in charge puts up the bill and makes it available for all to read. POFMA was put up on 1 April 2019 (an interesting and popular date to remember it by). Everyone can download and read. Many have expressed their opinion, including the Swiss-based International Committee of Jurists, Reporters without Borders, prominent academicians locally and internationally, and many other local and overseas commentators. Many have expressed alarm at the wide ranging powers given to the executive arm of the government and the ministers to decide what’s fake and what’s not.

Typically, the time between the first and second readings is a month because parliament usually sits once a month (though some sittings last several days).

Second reading is when there are speeches (or debates). Then parliament calls for a vote. It can be by the Speaker asking for shouts of “Aye” and “No” and Speaker decide if there are more “Aye”s versus more “No”s. Sometimes, a member can call for division (i.e. votes to be counted) and MPs will key in Aye, No or Abstain in the system and the tally will be read out. You can see who voted for, against or abstained.

If “Aye” is the majority, which you can expect it to be if the ruling party who has super large majority is the one proposing the bill (and if the Party Whip is not lifted), then the bill goes into the third reading. I only recall once when the PAP’s Party Whip was not lifted and one PAP MP (Tan Cheng Bock) voted against a government’s bill or motion. PAP MPs have sometimes spoken up or expressed serious concerns but other than TCB on the NMP scheme, none have voted against the bills/motions (at least not since independence). I recall Inderjit spoke out strongly against the population white paper (PWP) which read effectively as an outright rejection of the PWP motion but I respect his decision to absent himself from the voting as the Whip was not lifted. I take his speech as an effective “No” vote.

In the past, some NMPs (but not often) have voted with opposition MPs against government bills and motions, such as against PWP and Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act. It does take some strong conviction to vote against when you know the super super majority will be voting for.

By right, the feedback from the second reading can be taken back by the government to amend the text and present at the third reading or the bill referred to a select committee to deliberate on and make recommendations. Under a super majority parliament, almost all the time, nothing happens between the second and third reading. Third readings are called immediately after the vote on the second readings and passed through in minutes. I only recall one small drama during my term in parliament when an NMP wanted a wording change to a clause at the third reading.

So does it mean it is pointless for a small opposition presence to debate vigourously against bills and motions? No! Although a government bill / motion is certain to pass when their Whip is not lifted, we still have a democratic process where people can exercise their powers, albeit once in 4-5 years. NMPs have also voted against what they deemed as unreasonable, reflecting what they believe are the views of Singaporeans.

Protection against fake news is important but how it is to be done is even more important. This is a significant bill as it can affect how people express themselves online and what is deemed to be true or not. One needs to remember that what has been considered fake in the past have sometimes turned out to be true and even what’s fake or not are not always agreed upon even amongst the executive branch of the government who are supposedly in the know.

5 weeks have been given between the first and second readings. Many deeply concerned views have been expressed since the first introduction of the bill from prominent people. Are there glaring loopholes that can be exploited by this or future governments? Do we need to have some serious re-look between the second and third reading? Why not? Just because we very rarely do so in the past does not mean we should not because this is an important law.The parliament process allows for this and if changes are necessary, why rush the bill through?

Note: The above are my personal views.

#POFMA-concerns-you

 

* Facebook post by Yee Jenn Jong.

 

 

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12 Responses to “Relooking at POFMA”

  • patriot of TUMASIK:

    The IDIOTIC PM has made it clear that election rhetorics will be penalised by the new act…Veiled THREAT??? just like the Dead Bastard it runs in the BLOOD!!!

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  • Harder Truths:

    Regardless of the pompous fiasco of parliamentary proceedings (which are seldom attended and slept-through if attended) the bill will pass because it has already been passed.

    All this wayang is for the magician to complete the illusion there was a process. So don’t pay too much attention to the performance.

    The government agencies are even now preparing the means to implement POFMA. Maybe the conditions for compliance are retroactive, which means anyone can be arrested for past actions that are now ‘offences’ in the eyes of the State.

    Is it coincidence this is before a possible GE? I think not. The internet is the main avenue of communication and resistance. LKY’s ways cannot work anymore. New ways to tackle media content is on the way.

    Will TRE be branded a fake news site? Only time will tell.

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  • I like lyCHEE, hate LOONGan:

    That’s why aside from the MIW and their cronies who stand to benefit, whoever agree that one-party system is best for our country are FOOLS!

    Each time a new law is passed without much debates and objections just showed us how unsafe it can be for sg and for all who live here.

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  • The End Already:

    Some dafts asked what can opposition MPs do?
    As long as PAP is denied the majority in parliament, any unjust laws cannot be bulldozed through. This is what the “useless opposition” can do!

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  • LIONS:

    this is a rather unmeritocratic way of fighting the GE by self-proclaimed aristocrap$.

    fight like a gentleman.

    if during GE rallies,any candidate who says FTs will create more jobs for sgs is telling FAKE NEWS and ought to be punsihed accordingly.

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  • justice for all? NOPE!:

    plus dragging on the WP courtcase verdict…
    to label them unfit to run for elections at the last minute…before GE!
    Even the blind can see that.
    Good Gracious, what has become of our country?

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  • Regime change is the solution:

    PM LHL said fake news can change Singapore society. That is why it needs to be addressed. One thing he should be clear about is that regime change is not society change because PAP is not society. It is not the country. Singapore is not PAP.

    PAP is a “spent” political party that should be thrown out of Parliament and buried with LKY.

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  • Prostate Karma:

    We need a new law that all MP must be true to their religious teachings , are truly religious and not fake into religions for convenience of being mp.

    This is to prevent having ruthless and mercenaries as MP who will do everything at all cost to secure their political future.

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  • Prostate Karma:

    Yee YJ

    As a people representative before , you should know that Singaporeans generally have no Courage to vote against.

    This is the only problem and obstacle from voting PAP out.

    By the way, is there a moment before the votes counted and after the votes casted that the ballot box is not visible from the people or volunteers who are there to ensure a clean election?

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  • MarBowling:

    The MasterMind(MM)and FamiLEE behind this Crap Bill, POFMA(Puki Orang Fiacking MA)will sooner or later Kenna Retribution and Karma. All will Reap What He Sows! Period.

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  • patriot of TUMASIK:

    patriot of TUMASIK:
    The IDIOTIC PM has made it clear that election rhetorics will be penalised by the new act…Veiled THREAT??? just like the Dead Bastard it runs in the BLOOD!!!

    Hongkongers went on a PROTEST march by the thousands on a Proposed Bill on Sunday and what does Singapore Sheeple do???… Bleating YesSir!!! yessir!!! I am A FOOL…

    My 3 years in Hong Kong taught me that to “THINK” and to “BE” is the Success of a Human Being…unlike to “FEAR” and to be “SHACKLED” to the road of DESTRUCTION in The “THINKING” Mind!!!

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  • Change We Must:

    We should not allow politicians to be judges. There must be separation of power.

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