By now, I expect that everyone here should be aware that a couple have been charged in court with sedition over content on The Real Singapore.
In question are 6 articles in total which have allegedly promoted ill-will between certain classes of people in Singapore.
What I am concerned about is what will happen and what does it mean for Singapore if the couple are found guilty of all the charges?
When the courts make a decision, that decision is published in law reports and it sets a precedent where the position of the law is clarified. Future cases will reference that case and will have to rule in a similar way. That's why this case worries me. It looks like we are setting dangerous precedents for what Singaporeans can't say.
Let's look at what is being accused.
According to the TRS report on the issue which they have explained comes from the formal charge sheets, which I believe to be true as similar reports have also been carried in the mainstream media, there are many articles and specific statements within articles which are apparently seditious.
Here are just a few of the worrying ones that I can see:
– A complaint that a Filipino Manager constantly gave preferential treatment to other Filipinos in the company at the expense of Singaporeans
– "two clowns [An Indian and Filipino] had colluded in hiring their own nationals (mainly pinoys) in the company. "
– "Basically the Pinoy hr had people from the Philippines apply for any openings in the MNC i work and deleted any resumes that were Singaporeans"
– "the company hires more foreigners than locals"
– "Have they given fair consideration to Singaporeans?"
What are these complaints? All are actually complaints about some workplace discrimination and the sharing of unhappiness about it. The last two statements worry me the most.
If it is considered seditious to complain about foreigners being hired in companies without fair consideration given to locals, it means that Singaporeans can no longer complain about genuine discrimination in the work place.
Isn't this the type of thing that MOM is supposed to expose and fix? It will mean that even reporting about MOM busting a company for discrimination will be considered seditious.
If the couple are convicted on all their charges, it means that a precedent will be set where it is seditious to complain about actual workplace discrimination.
Here are another short selection of statements which are allegedly seditious:
– "if you are a minority in a Pinoy filled department or company, watch as how they will intimidate you by staying with their own cliques and speaking Tagalog."
– "Do you know by simply granting another work permit to these Chinese women means you are destroying many Singapore homes out there!"
– "These Chinese women sleep around with our men … and doesn't care whether the men are married or with kids."
– "[Pinoys] are without a doubt two faced. While we Singaporeans are generally concerned about each other's rice bowls, Pinoys are relentless back stabbers and pure suck ups."
These are very, very common complaints that I see in local forums all the time. Yes, they are generalizations, yes, they are stereotypes, no, they are not particularly beneficial to be repeating, but are they seditious?
Do we want to set a precedent where anybody complaining about this type of encounter or making generalizations can be arrested, charged, found guilty and potentially jailed for sedition? If the couple are convicted of sedition on all these charges, all our local forums can just shut down already. I see this type of complaint daily online.
Bye bye freedom to share some negative thing that happened in your day, bye bye being able to report that MOM caught X company for discrimination against Singaporeans. Bye bye being able to name the nationality of a person who commits a crime for fear that by reporting it, it could be seen as causing feel ill-will towards that person's nationality. Bye bye shaming bad public behaviour by a foreigner.
It also means that every single layman who's not skilled with their English cannot write complaints online already. They might slip up and write a generalization. Is this the climate of fear you want when posting online?
Even those who say that TRS is a trashy e-tabloid, that's fine, every website has a style, if you don't like it, don't read it. But should we stand by and allow such dangerous, ridiculously broad precedents to be set? These have a much wider implication than just "shutting down TRS".
I say no, and I believe I speak for a large number of Singaporeans too when I say that we will be watching the case closely.