Veteran architect Tay Kheng Soon recently commented on the draft of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) and pointed out that the fundamental flaw of the Act is that “the aggrieved authority is also the judge as to whether there is deliberate falsehood or malicious intent.”
POFMA, which aims to provide the Government with powers to act against online falsehoods to protect public interest, intends to give ministers the authority to determine what is an online falsehood and how to deal with that falsehood.
Mr Tay, the architect behind iconic structures in Singapore like KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Golden Mile Complex and the People’s Park Complex, commented on the proposed bill in a Facebook post on Saturday (22 Apr).
Asserting that an independent body must be in charge of deciding online falsehoods instead of the Government, Mr Tay wrote:
“The State and its Organs must not be the judge whether there is malicious intent to besmirch the reputation of the organs of the state as in the case of the views expressed by members of the public of perceived bias or double standards in exempting a person from holding a massive public gathering when most such gatherings require compliance of regulations.
“This points to the need for an independent body to make such a judgement.
“Moreover, it is incumbent upon a constitutionally established democratic state to ensure that its officers in the exercise of its laws are consistently and transparently applied.
“Should there be misperceptions then it is the duty of legislators to ensure such laws are not prone to misperception.
“This is the key issue in the POFMA in which the fundamental flaw is that the aggrieved authority is also the judge as to whether there is deliberate falsehood or malicious intent. Whether there is malice or it is a simple expression of doubt must be left to an independent public body to decide.”
Mr Tay, who presently serves as Adjunct Professor at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Architecture, added that such an independent body is “necessary to prevent the slide down the slippery slope towards legalised tyranny.”
He concluded: “Democracy must be just and be seen to be just, practiced within the spirit of the national pledge and the concepts within the nation’s constitution. Few citizens have the time or financial resources to challenge the authority of the state.”
Mr Tay has been critical of the Government in the past and has asserted recently that the People’s Action Party (PAP) Government should take a “drastic self initiated pay cut” in order to regain the moral authority he feels they have lost.
Earlier, he also shared a letter founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew wrote to him in 1969, in which Lee said wrote that “The answer against a bad elected government is to vote it out of office.”