Please see below for MARUAH’s media statement on the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods.
MARUAH has submitted a statement to the Ministry of Home Affairs regarding the proposed Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Bill.
The statement can be viewed below.
MARUAH has submitted a written representation to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods.
1. MARUAH’s view is that the government has not articulated a clear case for new legislation against Deliberate Online Falsehoods (DOF). Existing laws can already be used and have been used against DOF in Singapore and overseas.
2. There is a very high risk that any legislative action will stifle free speech and may be used against the legitimate expression of dissenting views.
3. In the event that the government still feels compelled to enact any laws against DOF, such laws must be balanced and not result in the removal of legitimate content including political debate. All parties affected must be given the chance to present their case and take-down orders issued only by a court of law.
MARUAH’s submission is posted at https://maruah.org/select-comm-online-falsehoods/
MARUAH participated in the public consultation sessions on the draft Healthcare Services Act (HCSA) and submitted its feedback to the Ministry of Health (MOH). Among the provisions of the HCSA is a requirement that all medical service providers upload data on their patients into a national medical database without giving individuals the right to opt-out. Conversely, the draft bill does not give individuals the right to access all of the data being held on them in the National Electronic Health Records (NEHR) database. MOH has softened its stance on allowing individuals to opt-out and has indicated that it would voluntarily allow individuals to access some of their own data but there are still obvious privacy concerns in the NEHR.
While we are broadly supportive of the aims of the HCSA and the NEHR, the privacy protections and rights of access for patients in the draft Bill are inadequate and should be strengthened.
MARUAH’s feedback on the HCSA and NEHR is appended below. For more information on the HCSA, see MOH’s website at http://www.hcsa.sg
For immediate use
3 December 2017
MARUAH condemns the arrest and prosecution of Jolovan Wham.
Civil society activist Jolovan Wham was arrested and charged with organizing public assemblies without a permit, vandalism and refusal to sign statements made to the police. The protests that Mr Wham is charged with leading are well-documented in mainstream and social media, and it is readily apparent that none of them posed a credible threat to public order. Mr Wham’s actions are merely public criticisms of the government’s stance on detention without trial, capital punishment and free speech. It is revealing that in the police press release announcing the arrest of Mr Wham, the police make a great deal of Mr Wham’s “recalcitrance” as if he were a child defying parental authority.
Singapore’s Constitution guarantees citizens of Singapore the right to freedom of speech and expression, and the right to assemble peaceably. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” while Article 20 (1) provides that “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”
MARUAH urges the government to drop the charges against Mr Wham and to remove all unnecessary and unreasonable restrictions on the right to free speech, expression, and assembly in Singapore.
Ngiam Shih Tung
Please see below for slides presented at MARUAH’s forum on the death penalty, on 28 May 2017.
The Straits Times reported on May 20, 2017 that the Elections Department plans to introduce electronic registration of voters at polling stations during elections. As this potentially affects the ability of polling agents to monitor the polling process, MARUAH wrote a letter to the editor to raise our concerns and to urge the Elections Department to provide advance notice of any changes, and to take public feedback into account before making any changes.
Don’t trade security for convenience (Straits Times, May 25, 2017)
The Elections Department recently revealed that it was testing a system that will electronically register voters during elections (Elections Dept to pilot electronic voter registration; May 20).
Thanks to the efforts of the civil service, Singapore has a very efficient and fuss-free polling process, without problems which even some well-established democracies face – long queues, voter fraud and other electoral misconduct.
However, there is always a trade-off between security and efficiency.
Elections officials must guard against not just the risk of external interference but also the misconduct of voters and candidates.
To ensure that a person is entitled to vote and to prevent him or her from voting more than once, presiding officers check the electoral register and physically mark against the name of the voter.
Crucially, this is done within earshot of polling agents appointed by candidates so that the polling agents may also check against their own copies of the electoral register.
Whether registration is done electronically or manually, it is imperative that polling agents have an independent means of verifying a voter’s eligibility and of preventing plural voting.
The goal of reducing waiting time is laudable but this cannot be allowed to undermine the safeguards in our system against electoral fraud.
We urge the Elections Department to publicise any proposed changes to voting procedures far in advance of implementation and to take feedback from the public, political parties and other stakeholders into account before making any changes.
Ngiam Shih Tung
The Elections Department replied to the letter two days later, saying that the electronic system was only for registration of attendance, and not for issuance of ballot papers. They also said that they would hold roadshows to collect feedback before implementation.
No sacrificing voting security for convenience (Straits Times, May 27, 2017)
We thank Mr Ngiam Shih Tung for his letter (Don’t trade security for convenience; May 25).
The current registration procedure at a Polling Station requires an election official to manually search for and strike off the voter’s name from the hard copy of the Polling Station Register (PSR).
The proposed eRegistration procedure registers a voter by electronically scanning his identity card and marking his record in the electronic copy of the PSR.
This will allow registration to be done in a shorter time, and reduce waiting time for voters. The electronic registration system will also alert the election official if an individual not eligible to vote turns up to register, or if a voter who registered earlier turns up again to register.
After a voter has been registered in the proposed new system, he will proceed to a different counter to be issued with a ballot paper.
During the issuance of the ballot paper, election officials will continue to read out the name and serial number of the voter in the PSR.
Polling agents will be seated within earshot of these counters to enable them to check against their own copies of the PSR, as per existing practice.
The Elections Department (ELD) plans to pilot eRegistration on a small scale first. Ahead of the pilot, we will conduct roadshows to familiarise voters involved in the pilot with the new registration procedure.
We will take into account feedback from the roadshows before we commence with the pilot. We will also review the lessons from the pilot before assessing the approach for full implementation.
Security will not be traded off for the sake of convenience. The ELD is fully committed to ensuring the integrity of voting procedures and of the entire electoral process.
Ang Boon Chin
Deputy Head (Operations)
MARUAH Election Watch has been monitoring Parliamentary and Presidental elections in Singapore since 2011 and has published several position papers on electoral issues such as Group Representation Constituencies(GRCs) and constituency boundaries in Singapore. We will continue to monitor issues affecting Singaporeans’ right to free and fair elections.