The following is a press release by by the ‘don’t kena contempt’ activists.
We are deeply disappointed that the Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill was passed 72-9 in Parliament on Monday night (15 August 2016).
We had collected 249 signatures from concerned individuals seeking a delay in the passage of the Bill, pending more extensive public consultation. Unfortunately, this petition was not accepted due to a technical error – our text indicated “Singapore Government” instead of “Parliament of Singapore”. Nevertheless, NMP Kok Heng Leun successfully re-submitted the petition to Parliament, signed by 9 people.
It is disheartening to see the concerns of signatories set aside, and the Bill passed in Parliament on the same day as its second reading without adequate public consultation. The amendments tabled by the three Nominated Members of Parliament have not been made to the Bill as they were withdrawn.
The Bill that has been passed still contains the original broad language used, as well as a lower legal standard of test for the offence of scandalising the judiciary. The inequality that stems from the clause that effectively grants the Government immunity from contempt of court charges also remains. We are therefore still of the view that this piece of legislation will further entrench self-censorship in Singapore, preventing our society from benefitting from open, in-depth discussions of matters of great public interest.
We thank all the Members of Parliament, Non-Constituency Members of Parliament, and Nominated Members of Parliament who voiced their concerns and objections to the Bill during the seven-hour debate. Vigorous debates – accompanied by tabled amendments – such as these should be a cornerstone of our parliamentary democracy.
We understand that, during the course of the debate, certain clarifications were made by the Law Minister. We look forward to seeing these clarifications in the Hansard next week, so as to be able to examine them more closely.
Finally, we note with regret mainstream media reports of the debate – such as the report by Channel News Asia – which placed disproportionate emphasis on Minister Shanmugam’s comments, at the expense of the many points and criticism raised by other Members of Parliament. This piece of legislation has grave implications for Singaporean society; it is the responsibility of the media to provide adequate coverage that keeps the populace informed. We hope that the mainstream media will take care to be more fair, accurate and balanced in their reporting in the future.