Thursday, 27 February 2014

Jail terms for PAP critics?

Cyber-bullying will be made a crime in a few months' time and there are good reasons to believe this legislation is yet another political move.

How did the PAP government decided to define cyber-bullying?
"The new law will make it clear that as long as the act is threatening, abusive, insulting and causes distress to victims, it is harassment - even if it is done online."

Causing distress is no less vague than the previous provision of Public Order & Nuisance the offence is currently under. Under such definition, anyone could make reasonable criticisms amounting to causing distress as perceived by a PAP MP who are widely known to be ultra-sensitive and easily intimidated. In 2009, a PAP MP called the police to arrest a mentally disabled youth who slammed an aluminium chair at a glass door outside the MP's room. In no instances, the PAP MP was in physical danger because the boy has already stepped out of the room and the impact were not strong enough to break the glass. Yes it could have been loud but a verbal warning or escort by the volunteers could have sufficed. Unfortunately, or magically, the PAP MP felt intimidated and insisted on 999. The element of feeling abused, insulted and distressed by the victim (PAP MP) is hence sufficient to lodge a formal police report. Impose the entire scenario online, it is obvious that so long the PAP MP feels even slightly intimidated, she can call in the police against any one who dares direct his online remarks or criticisms at her.

And the penalty for a person guilty of the online harassment charge? It has been enhanced to include jail terms or a court's order to mandatory treatment at the Institute of Mental Hospital. The latter is more worrying because any sane person admitted into the asylum will be having a hard time trying to prove his sanity and that is as good as detention without trial. Exactly similar to the Internal Security Act. Just last year alone, the alleged hacker "Messiah" or James Raj was denied immediate access to legal counsel and sent straight to be remanded in the IMH for 2 weeks of "psychiatric evaluation".

It leaves people wondering if the PAP is trying to be as absurd as North Korea. Perhaps detaining people without trial under the Internal Security Act is unpopular, which explains why the PAP may be deciding to send their political detractors to IMH.

Given how loosely defined cyber-bulling is going to be and how severe the punishments could be, it is no surprise that this new legislation ultimately aims to replace the more unpopular method of protecting the vulnerable members of the ruling party, otherwise known as defamation suits. Vulnerable members of the ruling party here, are bully-magnets. Those who periodically make audacious claims from time to time subjecting themselves to public ridicule like Lim Swee Say, Tin Pei Ling, Lim Wee Kiak, Vivian Balakrishnan, Lui Tuck Yew, Grace Fu, just to name a few. These jokers need to be protected but suing their critics into bankruptcy is going to spoil the caring and sophisticated facade they have been trying so hard to establish.

Besides, there isn't a better way to control the internet than to use the spread of fear. By reminding Singaporeans they could be jailed for their "unconstructive" criticisms of our esteemed leaders, it is more than enough to have the average Singaporean to avoid politics altogether. People like me who can't stop criticizing will simply be pushed into anonymity, which in turn could spell more headaches for the ruling party.

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