SINGAPORE: In Parliament on Wednesday (Jul 5), Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh explained why the WP is in favour of the Online Criminal Harms Bill (OCHA), even as he reiterated the party’s objections to other laws aimed at regulating material on the web.
“Not all legislation passed in this House targeting online content is equal,” he said. “The Workers’ Party will support rules aimed at online content when they are in Singaporeans’ interest, such as with this Bill, but not otherwise.”
Mr Singh, who has been representing Aljunied GRC since 2011, quoted a statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs, which in May called OCHA “the next piece in our suite of legislation” that includes the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) and the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act (FICA).
However, the WP head explained how these three pieces of legislation are fundamentally different. With POFMA and FICA, the access of Singaporeans to information that the Government perceives to be false, manipulative, or foreign interference in Singapore’s domestic affairs is restricted.
OCHA, on the other hand, aims to target materials on the internet that may cause Singaporeans to become victims of scams and other crimes.
“Reasonable people can disagree with the Government on what types of online content are harmful and whether Singaporeans need to be protected from them. Reasonable people can also desire that the Government not be given draconian powers that could be used, whether now or by future Governments, to stifle points of view different from those of the Government of the day,” he said.
OCHA deserves Parliament’s support, Mr Singh reiterated, telling the story of a woman he encountered at this week’s Meet-the-People session, who ended up losing over $300,000 in a scam after the scammer had won her trust.
“OCHA is targeted at protecting members of the public from scams and offences that can cause financial and other harm. If it remains focused on this target, the WP will continue to be in favour of its implementation,” he added.