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Here comes FICA…

This week: FICA will be fully implemented by the end of 2023, and a 20-year-old's call for a ceasefire in Gaza gets her questioned by the police.

I’m writing this from Scotland, where I’m spending Christmas again. It’s my safe place where I come to enjoy winter, where I spend about 70% of my time swaddled in an oversized hoodie that feels like a blanket, and where I breathe a little more easily than I do the rest of the year.

As usual, this newsletter goes on break for the last two weeks of the year, so this is the final issue of We, The Citizens for 2023! Thank you so much for reading and subscribing. I’ll see you in the new year!

FICA’s full implementation looms

Here it is, at last, after lots of waiting and wondering. The Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act was passed in Parliament in 2021 and partially came into force last year, but the part of the law relating to “politically significant persons” was left hanging… until now.

That aspect of the law will come into force on 29 December, so FICA will be fully implemented then. Political parties, MPs, election candidates and their election agents will automatically be covered, but there’ll also be a list of “politically significant persons” who will have to disclose “political donations” and foreign affiliations, and potentially fulfil more requirements if the authorities think that they're at “high risk” of “foreign interference”.

We’ll have to see who’s on the list come 29 December, but juuuust in case I’m going to take this opportunity to share this contingency post I wrote back when FICA passed.

A call to free Palestine leads to the police station

Late on Monday night, 20-year-old Kar Hin went outside the embassy of Israel in Singapore and put up two cardboard placards. “FREE PALESTINE”, one read, while the other called for a ceasefire and an end to trade with Israel. She took photos and a short video before leaving—these were posted on social media. As far as I could see from the photos and video, there was no disruption, disorder or danger caused by Kar Hin’s presence.

Still, this is Singapore, so the police have opened an investigation and questioned her. The authorities previously said that they will not grant any permits for public assemblies related to Israel and Palestine, which means that any such action will breach the Public Order Act and its absurdly expansive definition of an illegal assembly or procession. Apart from the questioning, Kar Hin says the police took her phone and her laptop (plus the charger), and asked her for the passwords to both. Also confiscated were the placards she’d used, some other pieces of cardboard that she’d used to draw placards but discarded (because of mistakes), and her passport. Singapore is really such a ridiculous country sometimes.

I told Kar Hin I was going to write about her action and the investigation and asked if she had anything to say. Here’s a quote from the comments she sent me:

“I believe that my protest and others in Singapore show how ludicrous the law is in preventing any sort displays or symbols of solidarity and compassion towards humanity… Instead of shutting people off for speaking out, we should look into the context as to why people protest in the first place and what they are protesting for, and provide them a safe space to express outwardly.”

Given this context, I could only laugh when I saw this article “written in partnership with the Ministry of Communications and Information in support of Forward Singapore” about how “youths can help shape Singapore in ways big and small”. The government claims that they want young people to step up to the plate and get involved in “civic discourse” and “civic engagement” but all this is only allowed to happen within the boundaries they set and in accordance with the rules they make. Pffft.

We’ll have to wait and see what comes out of the investigation. It could potentially be a very long wait. For reference: I’m still waiting for an update about my police investigations (under the same law), for which I was questioned in June 2022. It’s as if these aren’t urgent investigations because no harm was actually done, and it’s all really a massive waste of time and resources… 🤔 🤔 🤔

Kena POFMA’ed

Here we go with a new POFMA order—is this going to be the last one for the year or will we see some others before the end of the month? Kenneth Jeyaretnam’s blog and social media platforms have been classified as “declared online locations”, which means that he is now banned from deriving any financial or material benefit from them.

“In the last six months, Mr Jeyaretnam has made false claims and repeatedly shared falsehoods about various Government policies and processes, such as fiscal and manpower policies, the Singapore Police Force’s and Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau’s investigation practices, and state property rentals,” the Ministry of Communications and Information said in a press release.

Jeyaretnam, the leader of the opposition Reform Party, is also required to publish notices on the specified pages—and keep them up top until 11 December 2025—informing the public that “multiple falsehoods have been communicated on this website” and that “viewers should exercise caution”. He’s published these notices, but also expressed objection on his Facebook page:

“Needless to say I do not agree with this. Whatever the Government said to justify POFMA is false. This is an unjust and repressive law designed to protect the Government from having to provide accountability and transparency and provide basic information that should be freely available to citizens in a democracy… The fact that the ban extends to after the last possible date for the next election shows how desperate LHL and his Ministers are to keep me out of Parliament by any means possible.”

Mekong Review's subscription drive ends at the end of this month! Use the promo code ENDOFYEAR2023 to get 20% off a year's subscription.

On the radar

🏊🏽‍♀️ I recently read The Campbell Gardens Ladies’ Swimming Class by Vrushali Junnarkar, and if you’re looking for something to read over the holidays, I recommend it!

Merry Christmas, friends!

Thank you for reading! As always, feel free to forward this weekly wrap to anyone you like, and spread the word about this newsletter.

Have a great Christmas and a happy New Year!