18 September 2005

Be Careful What You Wish For.

Straits Times:- The Government is reviewing the Sedition Act to see if it needs to be strengthened or renewed.

Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng, who is also the Home Affairs Minister, said the Government had to take anyone who tries to stir racial, religious hatred against one another very seriously.

Mr Wong said: "The MHA would be reviewing, together with the Law Ministry and the Attorney-Chambers on the various legislations that we have, that will deal with situations where racial, religious hatred will be incited, where invocation of acts of terror, for example, can be said in the net or anywhere."

He said the penalty in the Sedition Act might have been outdated, as it was last reviewed many years ago. - CNA
Mr Wang can read the government's mind. Here is what Mr Wang predicts - we will see, in subsequent months, whether Mr Wang is right or wrong:

--> More specific legislation will develop, defining hate speech in greater detail. For example, the legislation may say something like this, ".... any message whose main or primary purpose or intention is to provoke or insult any particular race or religion in Singapore and which is written with malicious intent ...". This means that accidentally racist remarks, and the odd racist joke will pass unscathed, but the likes of the Third Holocaust blog will not.

--> Quite possibly, the legislation will develop some wording to say that you shouldn't insult religious symbols or beliefs (this legislative idea will be directly inspired by the doctored picture of the roasted pig's head with the halal symbol).

--> The legislative punishment for hate speech will go up sharply (I told you before - a maximum sentence of 3 years imprisonment and $5,000 fine is not particularly scary, compared to many other offences).

--> An especially harsh penalty will be developed for those whose hate speech advocates physical violence of any sort against any particular race or religion, and the law will say something like, "... and it shall be no defence for the accused to show that he did not in fact intend to commit such violent acts."

--> The law will probably establish a statutory defence for accused persons. It will say something like "... no offence shall be committed under this section if the accused can demonstrate that the purpose of his message was to discuss race and/or religious issues and that he had no intention of insulting any race or religion or provoking or inciting any hatred ..." etc etc.

"Ban hate speech? Zat ees ridiculous!"


Elia Diodati said...

So does Singapore practice retroactive legislation, in the sense that changes to the Act can be applied to the cases currently pending in court?

GK said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

No, the legislative changes will not be retroactive. Anyway the Singapore courts move so quickly that the current cases will be heard and dealth with, way before Parliament manages to pass any new laws.

Anthony said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anthony said...

Well, we know that the Singapore government CAN enact retroactive legislation (no equivalent of 14th Amendment "Due Process" clause exists in the Singapore consitution). I know of one VERY specific instance where legislation was give retroactive effect.

To be fair, though, it probably is irrelevant and not applicable here. I doubt it would suit their agenda to make the legislation retrospective.

Hence, I concur with Mr Wang.