Following the Elections Department Singapore’s (ELD) investigation against New Naratif and its founder Thum Ping Tjin for allegedly breaching election rules, the independent media posted a YouTube video yesterday (22 September) discussing this particular matter.
Dr Thum sat down with Sean Francis Han, the editor at Wake Up Singapore to discuss how the accusation by the ELD is an “abuse of law” and how it demonstrates the accuracy of New Naratif’s criticisms of the People’s Action Party (PAP) government.
In the video, Dr Thum raised the concerns regarding the “double standard” when his house was “ransacked” by four police officers and his belongings confiscated, while no actions were taken against Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung as he posted up a video that involved a child during the elections, displaying propaganda and explicitly breaking the law.
The duo also questioned the need for four police officers to escort the New Naratif founder back to his home to confiscate his laptop when all they did was to seal the device. They mentioned that it was an act of “intimidation” and described that it was a form of “harassment”.
Unfair treatment by the authorities
Even though police reports had been filed against Rachel Zeng and Raeesah Khan previously, as well as people like blogger “Xiaxue” Wendy Cheng and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, Dr Thum noted the difference in treatments given by the police.
“Unequal application of the bureaucracy and enforcement of the law because for an offence like mine or Raeesah Khan, you get interviewed and end up at the police station for several hours. In my case, they seized my phone and invaded my home to seize my laptop.”
“Whereas Ong Ye Kung, he’s just dismissed. The police reports against Heng Swee Keat and blogger Wendy Cheng “Xiaxue” was also just dismissed.”
“There is a double standard not just in whether or not a police report is filed or a complaint is filed, but then in how the police choose to investigate and enforce,” said Dr Thum.
Dr Thum describes how the ruling party abuses the law and power
Considering how the authorities intimidate citizens for making robust discussions online during the elections, Dr Thum expressed that this is an abuse of the law and power.
“There is abuse of power and they can say, ‘Oh, it is not illegal to walk down the street or stand in a street and take a photo or make a statement online or express your opinion’ peacefully, until it is (illegal), and then they can use the Public Order Act, the Parliamentary Elections Act or POFMA, or the Vandalism Act.”
He then proceeded to stress that New Naratif would fight against the hypocritical laws in Singapore to avoid the Government from abusing its power and silent the people by punishing them for expressing their views freely.
“This is why New Naratif is fighting so hard, is that if we don’t push back and show how hypocritical and ridiculous these laws are, the PAP government will use these laws to severely constrain our free legitimate political expression.”
“And as citizens, we have the right and the responsibility to express ourselves peacefully about political issues but the PAP will use all these laws to intimidate us and make us scared so that we self-censor and then the PAP government can say ‘hey, we didn’t stop them from saying, if they don’t want to say, what can we do right?’ That’s the goal. It’s to make us fear.”
Regarding the unfairness of the Singaporean law, the New Naratif founder pointed out how the other ASEAN Members of Parliament (MPs) criticized Singapore elections for being “really unfree and unfair”.
Expressing that the remarks made by neighbouring countries are “embarrassing” as a Singaporean, Dr Thum believed that the law should be applied “equally to all”.
He mentioned that if the PAP members, as well as Nominated MP Calvin Cheng and blogger Wendy Cheng were investigated by the authorities like how he had it, then he would believe that the law was applied equally and fairly.
“The law is wielded on behalf of those with power and against those who don’t have power and that’s a fundamentally, very deep rot in Singapore,” he added.