The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) is at the forefront of the battle against the use of POFMA by the government. Now, despite busy preparing for the elections, it is taking the Manpower Minister, Josephine Teo, to the High Court with the hearing stated for 16 January 2020.
Teo and the Ministry had issued Correction Directions (CDs) to the SDP in relation to three Facebook posts by the party. SDP fundamentally disagrees with the CDs. While it complied with obligations under the CDs, they lodged an appeal for the cancellation of the CDs. This was ultimately rejected by the Ministry. According to the SDP, the rejection did not adequately address the points that it raised.
If her POFMA order succeeds, then the last holdout where important national issues are openly and robustly debated on the Internet in Singapore would be irreparably closed.
The employment of Ministerial decree to accuse the opposition of stating falsehoods when the statements are in fact true cannot be condoned.
In a political debate, the application of facts and logical reason to persuade the public must not be sacrificed for the whims and opinions of Ministers.
By her action, Ms Teo has plunged a dagger into the heart Singapore's political system already plagued by anti-democratic rules that keep the PAP entrenched in power.
SDP leader, Dr Chee Soon Juan, opined that the PAP "must not be allowed to be the accuser, prosecutor and judge on any political matter, let alone one like the foreign-worker issue which has been the source of much frustration and anger among Singaporeans". He added that "if the ruling party gets away with using POFMA in such a slipshod and partisan manner, then every critic will be at its mercy".
This decision by the SDP to take Teo to court to defend the use of POFMA against the SDP is an important one.
Teo can no longer hide behind her Ministry. She has to stand up to scrutiny, in the court of law, to defend her use of POFMA.
Needless to say, this will be to the benefit of the opposition parties who may be undertain if POFMA will be used against them in the future, leading up to the elections.
It will also be monumental for Singaporeans who crave for more political liberty.