I am no fan of The Real Singapore. I read it occasionally when articles pop up on my Facebook newsfeed and always end up asking myself why I was even taking the time to do so. I suppose the curious in me was wondering what TRS was up to yet again. Another anti-foreigner diatribe? Yet another cut-and-paste job with a twisted headline?
I happened to have been a victim of such venom. But, frankly, I couldn’t care less. If readers choose to believe what they read, so be it. If they think this is the “real’’ Singapore, a place to carp and complain and make unsupported accusations in the name of free speech, then I don’t know what to say about their judgment. The website, in my view, is simply…scurrilous. That, I suppose, is its attraction and why it has so many followers. I tell myself that people read it to be entertained, but I think they also read it to be riled up and roused into some kind of righteous indignation over foreigners, the G and whatever or whoever is the favorite enemy of the day.
Time and again, we see people upset by remarks posted on TRS which abdicates responsibility by saying that it doesn’t control what their usually anonymous contributors post. Yet their shadowy owners with overseas servers seem to be beyond the grip of the law. Sue them for defamation? Who are they? Where are they? I was looking forward to seeing someone use the Harassment Act against the site but it seems the law beat people to it.
Now that the couple, a Singaporean student and his Australian girlfriend has been charged, it’s a bit tough to say anything that would not compromise their case. I must say the use of the Sedition Act was a bit of a surprise coming so soon after the same charge was levelled against a Filipino ex-nurse. It is a “heavy’’ legislation and very wide-ranging, which might account for its infrequent use.
The first seven charges come under section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act (Cap. 290) read with Section 3(1)(e):
4.—(1) Any person who —
… (c) prints, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distributes or reproduces any seditious publication ….
shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction for a first offence to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to both, and, for a subsequent offence, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years; and any seditious publication found in the possession of that person or used in evidence at his trial shall be forfeited and may be destroyed or otherwise disposed of as the court directs.
3.—(1) A seditious tendency is a tendency —
(a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the Government;
(b) to excite the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore to attempt to procure in Singapore, the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter as by law established;
(c) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Singapore;
(d) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore;
(e) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore.
The seven charges each refer to a particular posting, with the most recent being the false allegation that a Filipino family was involved in a fracas during Thaipusam.
The thing I wonder about is this: Why are the seven postings still accessible online if they are said to incite ill-feelings? Shouldn’t they be taken down to prevent further distribution?
From a reading of TRS’ own report of the court case on its site (yes, I had to look at it) it looks as though it is attempting to bring the original writers into the fray. Or at least to show that they were not involved in “content creation’’.
For example, one charge concerning an article on the sacking of “Pinoys’’ and an Indian national had the TRS saying that this “is a complaint shared with TRS in an email which was also published on Facebook by the original writer’’.
Likewise, it published a rant by a soon-to-be divorced woman who complained about the presence of female Chinese nationals who were stealing husbands. TRS said “This article was a complaint sent in by a TRS reader by email on May 22nd 2014’’.
What takes the cake is a charge involving a picture of a supposed female Chinese national making her grandson pee into a bottle on the MRT. Of this, TRS said: “This was sent in to TRS by a reader who also sent the same complaint to STOMP which also republished the same article inclusive of these allegedly seditious lines.’’
Ooh. In other words, double standards?
TRS said that the woman, Ai Takagi, “has been involved in the approval and publication of reader submissions for some of the content posted on TRS’’ but not Yang Kaiheng, the Singaporean. It also very handily listed the “seditous’’ comments that it has been accused of broadcasting.
For example, on the anti-PRC women rant:
“I would like to voice out my unhappiness with the over-populated China Chinese people in Singapore now!”
– “these Chinese women just apply permit/visitor pass using all kind of job excuse”
– “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.”
– “they only hopefully the men can divorce & married them and after that apply for S’porean citizenship and dump the guy! ”
– “We are flooded with enough Chinese all around us now! and enough is enough!”
I find it troubling. Because I think there are plenty of people who share some of these sentiments and would rant in similar fashion. Unless the case is that TRS has a deliberate agenda given the long list of other charges? Would it not be more suitable to use the Broadcasting Act or some other law to prevent such diatribes – or even to issue a take-down order under the Harassment Act? Until the case of the Filipino nurse with his anti-Singapore rant, the Act has been used against those who spout statements against a particular race or religion. And now…?
Hopefully, some light will be shed on the use of the Sedition Act.