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#29: Will we have an early GE? LHL says ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I’m dropping a bunch of sections this week and focusing on the main news, simply because I’m writing this at 1:33am after a looooong day of work and my brain is completely out of juice.

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Fake news alert

Earlier this week a story circulated that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had become a key target of 1MDB investigations—the story alleged that Malaysia had signed unfair deals with Singapore in return for Singapore helping Najib with his corruption and money laundering. Singapore very quickly came out to slam that report as fake. It turned out to have been sourced from States Times Review, a site from the corner of the Internet that has neither heard nor cares about fact-checking. And now the big guns have come out: the Monetary Authority of Singapore has filed a police report, the police is investigating the issue, the InfoComm and Media Development Authority has issued a takedown order and asked Facebook to deny access to a post sharing the article.

I’m not really sure what’s going to happen next, though, since the States Times Review is being run from Australia. Although, if the authorities already have this power to issue takedown orders and ask Facebook to deny access, I wonder what the expected anti-“fake news” legislation is going to add? (In any case, also read this op-ed about why it’s important to have a clear definition of “deliberate online falsehoods”.)

About that early GE…

Every Singaporean I’ve spoken to recently seem fairly certain that the elections are going to be called early and take place some time next year. But PM Lee is still being coy about it, saying that it’s “always possible”.

Goh Chok Tong, Singapore’s second prime minister, launched his biography this week. There was a Lunch with Sumiko column in the Sunday Times with him that I won’t bother inflicting upon you, but here’s an excerpt from the book where he talks about how the PAP had toyed with the idea of splitting into two just so there would be real debate in Parliament. I have a better idea, though, it starts with “STOP” and ends with something rhyming with “HAIRYTENDERING”.

Our Singaporean kids

The government is still at it trying to get Singaporeans to have babies. Josephine “You Don’t Need Much Space To Have Sex” Teo says the government is making affordable housing more available and also emphasising early childhood education—both good things—to provide a good environment for Singaporeans to have kids.

Unfortunately there’s also been bad news when it comes to stories about young Singaporeans this past week. An 11-year-old boy was ruled to have committed suicide after doing poorly in his mid-year exams; a tragic story that again turned out attention towards the pressure that might be put on Singaporean students—or that they might put on themselves—in the quest for academic achievement.

In other bad news involving a Singaporean son, a full-time National Serviceman, Liu Kai, was killed when an armoured vehicle reversed on to his Land Rover during a field training exercise. Photos of the incident were leaked and show the massive Bionix armoured vehicle pretty much crushing the Land Rover—the Singapore Civil Defence Force has since filed police reports against five of its full time servicemen for taking and leaking the photos.

Got some more…

So a recent survey found that four in 10 Singaporeans think medical marijuana should be decriminalised in Singapore. The government had earlier warned Singaporeans not to use cannabis even when in countries that have legalised it.

The government are going to update the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act, even though it’s been in force for 30 years without the government invoking its powers. But even though it’s never been used, its impact is in its “legal potential”, as mentioned in this piece that Simon Vincent wrote for New Naratif some time back.

Heng Swee Keat said that the government is going to continue limiting the inflow of cheap foreign labour. That said, there are already almost one million work permit holders in Singapore, and New Naratif recently published our latest podcast looking at the exploitation of migrant workers here (there’s a transcript now too, for those of you who prefer to read).