Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Singapore Sedition Act

Sedition Act: An Act for the punishment of sedition

The Sedition Act is in Chapter 290 of the Statutes of Singapore. It was last revised in 1985.

In September 2005, the Sedition Act was first used on individuals when three men, including a teenager, were charged for making seditious and inflammatory racist comments on the Internet.

Seditious tendency
(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.
(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), any act, speech, words, publication or other thing shall not be deemed to be seditious by reason only that it has a tendency:
  • (a) to show that the Government has been misled or mistaken in any of its measures;
  • (b) to point out errors or defects in the Government or the Constitution as by law established or in legislation or in the administration of justice with a view to the remedying of such errors or defects;
  • (c) to persuade the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore to attempt to procure by lawful means the alteration of any matter in Singapore; or
  • (d) to point out, with a view to their removal, any matters producing or having a tendency to produce feelings of ill-will and enmity between different races or classes of the population of Singapore, if such act, speech, words, publication or other thing has not otherwise in fact a seditious tendency.
(3) For the purpose of proving the commission of any offense under this Act, the intention of the person charged at the time he did or attempted to do or made any preparation to do or conspired with any person to do any act or uttered any seditious words or printed, published, sold, offered for sale, distributed, reproduced or imported any publication or did any other thing shall be deemed to be irrelevant if in fact such act had, or would, if done, have had, or such words, publication or thing had a seditious tendency.

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The Sedition Act has made its comeback. The last time it was used was in 2008 when a Christian couple deliberately distributed Christian material to Muslims for conversion purposes. The sentece was 8 weeks jail. However, it was the Internet that paved the way for the Sedition Act to reappear as deterrence and punishment in 2005. In three cases that year, three individuals were charged with the Sedition Act for making anti-Malay and anti-Muslim Internet postings. The sentences were a day in jail and fine, a month in jail and one 24 months of community work. Hence, being charged and sentenced under the Sedition Act is not as horrible as being charged under vandalism.

This week, cartoonist Leslie Chew from Demon-cratic was charged with the Sedition Act supposedly for his comic insinuating that the PAP government was racist and marginalised the Malay community. Leslie might be a mediocre comic artist and his comics are not slick compared to My Sketchbook or Cartoon Press, and even quite one-sided with a huge dosage of populist naivety e.g. when he dumbed down the foreign labour argument.

However, although he is a so-so and shallow political commentator, he is not seditious, compared to those sentenced in 2005 and 2008. Even Amy Cheong , who was let off with a warning, was more seditious than Leslie as Amy was outright racist in her comments.

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In 2005, the archaic laws of sedition were summoned to counteract speech considered offensive to racial and religious groups in Singapore. Under the Sedition Act, it is seditious to, inter alia, promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population. In a later case involving religious proselytisation, a Christian couple was charged and convicted of sedition under the same section. This article examines this new phenomenon. It investigates the manner in which these laws have been employed and jurisprudentially developed to restrain speech on race and/or religion in Singapore. The article argues that the current state of the law is highly problematic for its adverse impact on free speech as well as for its conceptual confusions with alternative bases for restraining speech. It contends that failure to extricate the existing conceptual confusions is adverse to free speech and community integration in the long run. A threefold legal framework is proposed to provide clearer guidance on inter-racial and inter-religious interaction within the Singaporean society

In 2005, the Singapore blogosphere was scandalised by reports of blatant online racism. A local blogger had parodied the halal logo, placing it next to a pig’s head and, among other derisive and vulgar assaults on the Malay-Muslim community and its customs, compared Islam to Satanism. His blog entry sparked a slew of  racial slurs attacking both Malays and Chinese in Singapore. In another part of the blogosphere, a different blogger caused furore with a post entitled “The Second Holocaust” advocating genocide against the Malays. These bloggers and another were charged and convicted of sedition. Under Singapore’s Sedition Act, it is seditious to “promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population”. This is a significant restraint on freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech is constitutionally guaranteed under art. 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore. The official justification is that such restraint is necessary to preserve the public interest of maintaining peaceful and harmonious relations between the different racial and religious groups in the country. Situating this racialised fracas in the context of Singapore’s underdeveloped state of nationhood is necessary in order to fully appreciate the gravity of the issue. Singapore is a racially and religiously diverse society composed of three main racial groups: the Chinese who form the clear majority at 74.1 percent, the Malays who are the largest minority group at 13.4 percent and the Indians at 9.2 percent. This diversity and the lack of a common nationality, in the sense of a shared sense of community arising from commonalities such as race, language, religion and/or even a shared baptismal experience in history, have made independent statehood exceedingly difficult. The large coincidence of race and religion within the population deepens social cleavages since religious differences and disputes may also be perceived as racial in nature.

Singapore teen behind anti-Lee Kuan Yew video arrested: police

AFP/Roslan Rahman - A Singapore policeman holds his post as mourners pay their respects to Singapore's late former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew as he lies in state at Parliament House ahead of his funeral on March 26, 2015

Singapore police said Monday they have arrested a teenage boy who posted an expletive-laden video on YouTube attacking Christianity and the country's late founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, but the exact charges were unclear.

"In response to media queries, the police confirm that a 17-year-old male Singaporean was arrested in relation to the case. Police investigations are ongoing," a Singapore Police Force statement said late Monday, without providing further details.

Singapore's Straits Times and other local media said the young man, described as Amos Yee, a 17-year-old student, was arrested on Sunday.

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Duo from The Real Singapore arrested under Sedition Act

Two persons from The Real Singapore (TRS) have been arrested and investigated by the police for offenses under the Sedition Act.

Both, a Singaporean, 26 and an Australian woman, 22 were arrested by the Singapore police on 6 February. The two are said to be owners of the social political website.

The investigation by the police is said to be on the article published on TRS which supposedly depicts the account of a witness of an incident during the recent Thaipusam festival.

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The Real Singapore duo slapped with 7 charges under Sedition Act

he couple behind socio-political website The Real Singapore (TRS) - a 26-year-old Singaporean man and a 22-year-old Australian woman - were on Tuesday (Apr 14) each charged with seven counts of sedition.

Yang Kaiheng and Ai Takagi allegedly published seditious articles on the website between October 2013 and February 2015. One of these articles falsely claimed that an incident between police and some members of the public during a Thaipusam procession on Feb 3 had been sparked by a Filipino family's complaint that the drums played during the procession upset their child. The contributor of the article posted on another website that the allegations made in the TRS piece were untrue. Yang is Singaporean, while Ai Takagi is Australian.

According to the charge sheets, the particular articles have the "tendency to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different groups of people in Singapore, name, between ethnic Indians in Singapore and Philippine nationals in Singapore".

Filipino Edz Ello finally arrested and charged in court

Filipino Ello Ed Mundsel Bello (Edz Ello) was finally arrested and charged in court today (7 Apr). He faces 2 counts under the Sedition Act, and another 3 charges for giving false information to the police during investigation.

Edz Ello’s arrest came after netizens started questioning the police for their quick arrest of Singaporean Amos Yee while taking a long time to deal with the foreigner. In the case of Amos Yee, it appears that the police were very efficient in conducting their investigation. They were able to bring charges against the teenager in a record 4 days, after he had posted a video on YouTube that derided the late Singapore leader Lee Kuan Yew on 27 March 2015. Amos Yee’s case has since made global headlines (‘Arrest of Amos Yee makes world news‘).

In Edz Ello’s case, the Filipino posted derogatory and inflammatory comments about Singapore and Singaporeans on his Facebook page last year. In one of the posts, he was alleged to have incited his Filipino compatriots to “like” his Facebook post, if they wanted to see Singaporeans dead:

Singapore charges Filipino nurse with sedition

Filipino nurse Ello Ed Mundsel Bello was charged with sedition on Tuesday (April 7) after allegedly posting anti-Singaporean rants on his Facebook account last January.

Aside from sedition, the 28-year-old Bello was also charged for lying to the police after he allegedly told authorities last January 3 that his account was hacked and so it wasn't he who posted the racist rants.

According to The Straits Times report written by Elena Chong which was posted April 7, Bello's posts could promote ill will and hostility among Singaporeans and Filipinos in Singapore. Sedition refers to the "conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state."

Singapore drops sedition charges against political cartoonist Leslie Chew

Yahoo Newsroom - One of political cartoonist Leslie Chew's most recent comics, published on his Facebook page "Demon-cratic Singapore". (Picture from Demon-cratic Facebook)

Singapore’s state prosecutor has decided not to pursue sedition charges against political cartoonist Leslie Chew.

It will, however, still be proceeding with four contempt of court charges for four comics Chew published between 2011 and last year, the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ said in a statement on Monday.

Chew, who is behind the "Demon-Cratic Singapore" Facebook page that houses a wide range of politically-nuanced comics, was arrested in April for police investigations into possible offences under Singapore's Sedition Act, which outlaws acts "with a tendency to promote feelings of ill-will or hostility between different races or classes" among its people.

Racist rant: Amy Cheong gets stern warning from police
Former NTUC assistant director of membership Amy Cheong. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF AMY CHEONG

THE police have issued a stern warning to Miss Amy Cheong over her expletive-filled racist rant on Facebook last year.

The 38-year-old Australian and Singapore permanent resident, who has returned to her family home in Perth, confirmed to The Straits Times that she received an e-mail from the police last week informing her of the closure of her case file.

Miss Cheong, a former assistant director of membership at the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), made headlines last October after she lost her job for posting the insulting message on her Facebook page.

British expat Anton Casey on anti-Singaporean Facebook posts: Please forgive me

Yahoo Newsroom/NTDTV YouTube video screengrab - British national and private wealth manager Anton Casey

A private wealth manager in Singapore who sparked outrage online for referring to public transport commuters as "poor people" has apologised.

In a statement issued through Fulford Public Relations on Tuesday, British national Anton Casey said, "I deeply regret having offended and disrespected the people of Singapore. I have the highest respect and regard for Singapore and the good people of Singapore; this is my home."

Several of Casey's comments caused public outrage when screengrabs of his Facebook posts surfaced on various Singapore websites and forums on Monday.


Police have arrested two male 17-year-olds for posting racist remarks online which could promote ill-will and hostility between different races in Singapore.

On 27 June 2012, Police received two reports informing that postings with racist remarks were found on Facebook and Twitter. Upon receiving the reports, Police conducted extensive enquiries and subsequently managed to establish the identities of the suspects. The suspects were arrested on 28 June and 29 June 2012. Investigations into the case are in progress.

Under the Sedition Act, anyone found guilty of promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore shall be liable, on conviction for a first offence, to a fine of up to $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term of up to 3 years, or to both.

Blogger arrested for posting racist online content

A LOCAL blogger who ranted about a commuter's behaviour on an MRT train was arrested on Tuesday night.

Police said the 24-year-old Chinese man was taken from his home at Paya Lebar Way at about 9.45 pm for 'posting contents in his blog which may wound the racial feelings of another person'.

A computer, believed to be used to post the suspect's blog, was seized for investigations, which are ongoing.

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Singapore prosecutes bloggers with colonial-era sedition law

BRITISH colonial law which helped fight a communist insurgency is now being used to prosecute three ethnic Chinese accused of writing racist remarks about ethnic Malays on the Internet, as authorities attempt to crack down on racial intolerance and regulate online expression.

Animal shelter worker Benjamin Koh Song Huat, 27, and Nicholas Lim Yew, an unemployed 25-year-old, will plead guilty Oct. 7 to sedition for racist remarks against the minority Malay community, their lawyers said. They face up to three years' in prison and a maximum fine of S$5000.

Experts said the Sedition Act has not been used in Singapore since it broke off from Malaysia and became independent in 1965. But analysts say the government may be using the Act to raise the case's profile in an effort to stamp out racial intolerance in a country where social cohesion has been a chief concern since Chinese-Malay riots in the 1960s left scores dead.

17 year old to face sedition charges

JUST four days after two men were charged with making racist remarks online, another blogger has joined their ranks.

This one is only 17, but his remarks appeared to be at least as virulent as those made by the two men charged on Monday.

Gan Huai Shi appeared in court on Friday, faced with seven charges under the Sedition Act for remarks he made between April 4 and July 16 this year.

Two Bloggers Charged under Sedition Act Over Racist Remarks

For the first time in Singapore, two bloggers have been charged under the Sedition Act with making racist remarks. Twenty-five-year-old Nicholas Lim Yew faces two charges and 27-year-old Benjamin Koh Song Huat faces three.

A subordinate court was told that both their blogs had racist content, which sparked off a heated discussion online. The charges read that Lim had, on 16 and 17 June 2005, posted racist remarks on a web forum. Koh was alleged to have done the same on 12, 15 and 17 June on another website.

In doing so, they are alleged to have committed an act which had a seditious tendency. This is defined as promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races of the population of Singapore.