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The Tortured Political Writer Department

This week: Now that the leadership transition is happening, when will the elections be? Also, the government is asking for feedback on what looks to be a very broad bill that’ll supposedly maintain racial harmony.

I’ve had a rather busy ol’ week all things considered, and it’s looking busy for the next couple of weeks too… We can do this, everyone! Jiayouuuuu!


Lee Hsien Loong is on his way out and Lawrence Wong is incoming. But we’re not saying bye to LHL forever because he’s going to stick around as senior minister. A Cabinet reshuffle is also coming and will be announced a few days before Wong’s swearing-in ceremony. As Wong says, “Our system works on the basis of continuity and progressive change”, so I’m not holding my breath for any radical shifts.

Reading some of the “who is Lawrence Wong?” pieces made me feel as if I was just ticking off the bingo card I’d written in my special issue: ✅ his civil service career, ✅ his leadership of the Covid-19 task force, ✅ the Forward Singapore exercise, ✅ his guitar hobby. Still not a lot about his political vision, I’m afraid.

We now look forward to the next general election, whenever that will be. Observers are betting on a trip to the ballot box before the end of 2024. The favoured window appears to be from September to the end of the year, and it’s been suggested that the National Day Rally in August could give us some clues. In any case, the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee hasn’t been convened, so there’s no need to get too excited just yet.


The police have opened an investigation into the banner protest at Gardens by the Bay, calling on Singapore to end our arms trade with Israel.

The Straits Times’ story gives quite a lot of space to the protesters’ statement. The protesters had been inspired by the A15 Action organised across the world on 15 April “to disrupt the global economy’s indifference to the human rights abuses happening right before our eyes”.

It’s not clear what will come out of the police investigation, and it’ll probably be some time before we find out (if it goes anywhere). Meanwhile, the petition started by this Singapore For Palestine group has got 2,884 signatures since it was started about four days ago.


The PAP government is proposing a Maintenance of Racial Harmony Bill that we should all be paying attention to. This proposed legislation would give the Minister for Home Affairs the power to “make restraining orders against the production or distribution of content that prejudices the maintenance of racial harmony in Singapore”. This is once again an executive action, something like the powers granted by POFMA (the anti-“fake news” law) and FICA (the anti-foreign interference law); it doesn’t require the authorities “to establish that the person is engaging in criminal conduct”.

I don’t think the actual text of the bill is available yet, so we can only go off what’s on REACH. What’s most concerning to me is how laws related to racial harmony have previously been used against ethnic minorities speaking out against racism—like what happened to Subhas Nair—and how broad these suggested restraining orders sound.

The Ministry of Home Affairs is asking Singaporeans to submit feedback by 14 May 2024. It’s not a lot of time, but I hope Singaporeans will write in. Some friends and I are talking about getting together to discuss this bill and encourage people to submit their feedback, so watch this space.

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On the radar

🎭 From 19–28 April, Checkpoint Theatre is presenting Secondary: The Musical, written and composed by weish and directed by Huzir Sulaiman. It’s a new musical about life in a Singapore school. I haven’t got my act together to book tickets yet, but don’t be like me, be better than me. Book here.

🎧 I’ve not been a committed Swiftie for a long time—I’m still into country era Taylor, which is really dating me—but I’m listening to Taylor Swift’s latest album, The Tortured Poets Department, because I don’t want to experience FOMO. But my real earworm this past week has been BOYNEXTDOOR’s Earth, Wind & Fire. My magpie brain is just incredibly entertained by that choreo. Many shiny colourful thing in video! Much jumping! Much bop!

Have you picked up a copy of We Are Not the Enemy: The Practice of Advocacy in Singapore yet? You can get one here.

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