THE WORKERS’ PARTY’S POSITION ON THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE (PROTECTION) BILL
This bill is not only unnecessary, it also gives to the executive and the police powers that they currently do not have that would have a chilling effect on fair criticism and public discussion.
If enacted, this law runs a very high risk of causing the unintended consequences of undermining the public’s trust in the Government in the long run.
Daniel Goh denounces the Bill’s broad definition of “publish” to cover personal electronic communication and social messaging between friends. He cited an example of a young person who has died in an event following the acts of public officials, and asked whether a concerned member of the public or even the father of the child would be risking sub judice contempt if he questioned the authorities in good faith.
Sylvia Lim stresses that even though existing law is clear that the Government is subject to the contempt of court laws, the Bill allows the Government to make statements on pending cases so long as “the Government believes” that such statements are necessary in public interest. This means that the Government will be the sole judge of what is necessary – the test is subjective and the Government’s assessment is not open to challenge.
Sylvia Lim slammed the Government for giving the Police more unnecessary work even though there has been much talk about the heavy workload and manpower shortages faced by the Police, in recent years. The Bill provides that the Police may now investigate potential offences relating to sub judice contempt.
Pritam Singh takes the Government to task on its record on civil liberties. An example he referred to was how the Protection from Harassment Bill was passed with justifiable reasons such as to protect individuals from abusive behaviour, but was later used by the Government to claim harassment from a member of the public in a dispute over a mere patent.
Leon Perera argues that the Bill creates the potential for abuse of the excessive powers it confers on the Government, allowing the Government of the day to initiate investigations as a means to stifle and, ultimately, strangle debate on matters of public concern, while reserving for itself the right to comment on such cases.