Sunday, September 18, 2005

Strengthening the Sedition Act, or new legislation to deal with those who incite racial or religious hatred

Saw it on the Sunday Times (ST, Sep 18). It was DPM Wong Kan Seng who said that when eaking to reporters at a Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival event in Bishan. The main points: the penalty provided for by the present Sedition Act may be out of date--read, "not adequate"--because it was last reviewed 20 years ago. Then there is the usual exhortation on racial harmony:
Mr Wong also took the opportunity to remind Singaporean youths not to take racial harmony for granted... 'We had racial riots in 1964, just barely 41 years ago,' he said. 'So we have many young people who have grown up in a period of peace and racial harmony, without knowing that it requires great effort to maintain the harmony we have built up over the years.'

He then sounded a warning to those who might make racist remarks. 'When some people feel that they can say anything they want - not just on the Net but anywhere - that will stir racial and religious hatred. 'We have to take it very seriously and that is why the police have to act,' he said. 'We hope that after this, people will learn not to say or write such things, because all we need is some foolhardy people who will act on what they say and we will have a racial or religious riot on our hands.'
Elsewhere, the New Paper appear to have access to the as-yet-to-be-written update of the Sedition Act as it reports that "Gan [Huai Shi] faces seven counts of promoting ill-will in Singapore under Chapter 29 of the Sedition Act" (hat tip: Jeff Yen). The present Act has 11 chapters sections, the last I checked. (Mr. Wang: "The Sedition Act has eleven SECTIONS. The entire Sedition Act is ONE chapter in the statutes of Republic of Singapore. The Sedition Act's chapter number is 290, not 29.")

update: more in the same vein from PM Lee (CNA):
[PM] told reporters that Singapore takes multi-racial and multi-religious harmony very seriously, as it is the basis for Singapore to hold together as a nation. Mr Lee said the government would send the wrong signals if it does not take action against the three Singaporeans who allegedly made the racist remarks.

Mr Lee said: "So whether you do it on the internet, whether you do it in the newspapers or whether you said it in the public or even in the Speakers' Corner, it does not matter where you say it. This is the message, it is not acceptable. It is against the law and the Sedition Act specifically puts it down that you are creating distrust and animosity between the races, and we will act according to the law."

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