Again, if you are wondering about "sedition" and what the word means and all that, I would recommend reading Singasingapore
on the "Sedition Act" rather than, say, dictionary.com
on the word "sedition". (add:
see also this comment
by Ivan, left at Ink. again:
The full text of the Act
itself is available here; section 3 should be the important one. [update
(Sep 13 1840 -0400) Mr. Wang
has a new post that should be read if you are still worried about the "sedition" in the "Sedition Act". He (and Ivan and Anthony
) also nicely answered the question: Why this rather than the "Maintanence of Religious Harmony Act"? A must read.]
The main ST story on the affair is up, though it doesn't say a lot more than the previous version. There is this extra bit on the blogger though, and it gets quite specific. He apparently posted racist comments on his blog (Phoenyx Chronicles) on June 12, 15 and 17. "On June 12, he allegedly blasted Muslims for 'spoiling my day' in an expletive-laden entry." On June 15, he "referred to the forum discussion on www.doggiesite.com and, in another entry filled with vulgarities, allegedly insulted Malays and their religion."
More details are also available from TODAYonline
According to court documents, Lim's forum message began with: "The masses are idiots. 'Nuff said". He went on to make disparaging remarks about Muslims. Then, turning his attention to the Chinese and Indians, he wrote that listening to the complaints of "Chinese and Indians ... was no less irritating".
Koh was more pointed. Peppering his blog entry with vulgarities, he directed his tirade at Malays and Muslims. His blog had a picture of a roasted pig's head with "a Halal look-alike logo", according to court documents.
This is beginning to sound like they were basically asking for it... There's more in the report about the expected "chilling effect" on the Internet community, etc. This bit from a lawyer is interesting:
"Everyone will definitely become more careful about what they say," lawyer Siew Kum Hong, himself a former blogger, told Today. "Blogging is no different from other forms of speech in everyday life."
The same rules that apply to newspaper writers and at the Speakers' Corner also apply to bloggers, he said...
"But they (the police) won't set aside resources to deal with that sort of situation, unless there are special circumstances, or if it was a high-impact case involving public Internet postings," said [lawyer Siew Kum Hong].
You can read the rest for yourself.
More blogospheric reactions: Elia Diodati has started a wiki
to track the affair.IZ Reloaded
- "...I'm not sure what they said towards the Malay-Muslim community but it must have been disturbing enough for the government to act on them, should not be condoned. Punishment should be carried out. They should be made an example for others not to be racists. Should they be sent to prison or fine heavily? I do not think so. I think racist people should be educated. They should be taught more about the particular race or religion that they hate so much. Only through education can these racists learn and understand. And they should be made to write a public apology to the whole nation about their racist remarks."
From north of the causeway: Suanie
- "today we learnt 5 things: #1: There is something called 'freedom of speech'. #2: It is probably not what you imagined. #3: Because it comes with social responsibility #4: So #5: Don't f-- your rights up." And Mark My Words
- "Freedom of speech has its limits, and with it comes responsibilities. That speech must not be inflammatory towards any race, religion, and/or against the interest of national security and public order, e.g.. hate-speeches." Another one: Kamigoroshi
- "...if everyone had the sense to control what they say or even how they should say it, I don't think there would be laws against this sort of thing. I mean…laws…no matter how ridiculous and mundane they might seem are there to maintain order and protect the public from itself. The fact two people got arrested from writing racial hate speech…is a testiment to a law that actually works."Singapore Classics
- "...this case raises important constitutional questions whether Singapore is a society which can survive views expressed contrary to our more civilised expectations. Those who describe this as a legal overkill or as an effective legal bulwark againt such views stand on the same side of the fence: they prescribe the dealing of such issues with Law. And if such issues are to be dealt with [using the] Law, then any criticism that this has been a legal overkill is at its heart void of its content. The issue...is whether Singapore is ready for dissenting views, even dissenting-virulent views.update:
Lzydata of Singapore Ink
has posted the letter from Madam Zuraimah Mohammed that started it all. As I sort of guessed, it was a rather innocuous request for information (even if, behind the scenes, motivated by religious considerations). No proposal for a ban, or even a suggestion to that effect. But now the problem is: how is it that it got Nicholas Lim Yew so worked up as to post whatever he posted on www.doggiesite.com? My guess is that there's a lot more that happened in the forum thread, now no longer available. (add: some
seem to think that Madam Zuraimah "exaggerated" the requirements of Islam, which is extremely puzzling (just read her letter for yourself). What might be an "exaggeration" would be this bit from the ST report:
Ustaz Ali Haji Mohamed, chairman of Khadijah mosque, pointed out: 'There are various Islamic schools of thought which differ in views. But most Muslims in Singapore are from the Syafie school of thought. This means they are not allowed to touch dogs which are wet, which would include a dog's saliva. This is a religious requirement.'
But not being learned in such matters, I have no idea.)latest:
The Void Deck
joins the fray - "Pwoaah racists in Internet who act smart think they cannot get caught..think again! Gahment hoot 2 racists with Sedition Act. SMLJ? Aiyah care for wat right? As long as racists tio mao jialat jialat can oredi hor? hehe wink wink." (What can I say? This is the Void Deck we are talking about, after all...)
Elia Diodati offers insightful comments in his "Issues surrounding the racists’ arrests"
that are too extensive to really quote here. He lists some of the more secure facts and lays out the questions and issues that remain to be resolved. A must read.
Elsewhere, The Committee to Protect Bloggers
takes note - "CPB believes that if these men did make racist comments, they should be run to earth by their fellow bloggers, especially those in Singapore, a process which is already in this short time well advanced...However, to charge them with "sedition," especially as the law seems so purposefully vague so as to allow maximum political utility for those in power, may be overkill."
Maybe, but do note that their agreement with IZ Reloaded ("...they should be made to write a public apology to the whole nation about their racist remarks") itself suggests two possible readings. Question: is such an apology meant to be compelled by legal action of some sort? If the answer is "yes", then any dispute seems academic. It seems to all boil down to the connotations of the word "sedition", which is, frankly, not all that relevant. What is relevant is the specific statutes of the "Sedition Act" (which, for all I care, could have been called "Act #1701"). In any case, as the ST report points out, "Offences under the Act carry a maximum jail term of three years and a $5,000 fine"--as the Void Deck characteristically puts it
--"while sibeh sianzzz is not as jialat as rotan etc. If you give illegal immigrant whether he wan to tio charged under Sedition Act, he take it man. At least he wont kena caned." (add:
on the other hand, as this
report so helpfully points out, if the duo go to jail, "they won't be allowed chewing gum in clink and smoking is forbidden in gaol.")
If the answer is "no", on the other hand, we are in the ball park of Elia's suggestion (read his post; linked above) that the issue should have been "resolved" by the "court of public opinion" rather than the "court of law". This is a comparatively more "freaky" suggestion, one with which I am not unsympathetic--at least in the specific case. But it's hard to say without all the relevant facts on hand.another thing:
Some--including Randy Kluver
--questioned why it is the Sedition Act that was used rather than the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act
. I am no lawyer so comments from those out there with legal training would be most welcome. Nevertheless, speaking purely as a layperson, a glance at the relevant Acts does reveal something. The MRHA does seem to be a much more complicated piece of legislation. There is a "Presidential Council for Religious Harmony", 2/3 of the members of which are "representatives of the major religions in Singapore", etc. It also seems aimed primarily at regulating the actions of people in authority in the various religious groups or institutions (see section 8(1); though there is also a provision for "other persons" under section (9)), especially with regards to inciting enmity between different religious groups or using religion as a cover for political activities. It's main weapon is the restraining order (i.e., restraining the person charged from speaking to his congregation, say) and the penalty for breaking it is "a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or to both" (for the first offense).
I really doubt that our dynamic duo rises to this level. To begin with, it's not as if they are leaders of groups; and even their (supposed) rants seem rather broad in their targets. (The Sedition Act
, on the other hand, already has the nifty bit about in which a "seditious tendency" is partly defined as "to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore".)
But as I said, unless more information is forthcoming, there's going to be a lot of speculation and second-guessing. (note: Mr. Wang
helpfully points out that the details "will only emerge in court at the time the accused pleads guilty or, if he chooses to go to trial, at the time of the trial itself. In either scenario, the proceedings will be conducted in open court, which means that any member of the public can walk in and witness the proceedings.")the wonders of google:
Turns out that the blog Phoenyx Chronicles was already making splashed way back in June (around the time of the ST Forum Page letter). Someone left a comment at Mr. Brown
(scroll down) hoping that he would check out the blog. And there was also a thread at SPUG forum
--there is a Zaobao report about this as well, and it contains more details about what the two posted (my translations follow):
The three charges Koh Song Huat is facing state that he made anti-Malay and anti-Muslim remarks on a blog named "Phoenyx Chronicles" hosted on www.upsaid.com on the evening of June 6, 15 and 17 this year. The appendix to the charges shows that Koh used insulting words to refer to and describe Malays, mocking their customs and religious prohibitions; and also make jokes about Allah in a disrespectful manner.
The two charges Lim Yew is facing state that he make anti-Muslim remarks in posts left on the forum at the dog enthusiast site www.doggiesite, in response to a Straits Times Forum Page letter from a Malay woman on the morning of June 16 and 17. The appendix to the charges shows that Lim criticized the Muslims for using religion as an excuse to raise all sorts of unreasonable demands. He also said that he does not care much for the Muslims.
looks like Singapore Ink
got to this already; scroll down to "Addendum (13 Sep 2005)".finally
--because I am turning in after this, another couple of blogosphere reactions, from WhiteOut
. Knock yourself out.