Pritam Singh

Singapore — Parliament passed a law against foreign interference on Monday (Oct 4) after a ten-hour debate. 

Shortly before midnight, the  Foreign Interference Countermeasures Act (FICA) passed, with a “yes” vote from 75 Members of Parliament. 

Eleven MPs from the Workers’ Party and Progress Singapore Party objected to the passing of the bill, and two Nominated MPs abstained from the vote.

In his speech, Leader of the Opposition and WP head Pritam Singh called it “wholly incongruous” for the government to fail from seeking public feedback on FICA.

Mr Singh reminded members of the House that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said last year at the 36th People’s Action Party (PAP) Conference that Singaporeans want greater checks and balances, adding that the government needs to respond accordingly.

In this regard, he said that “it is wholly incongruous for the government to accept that the public of today desires greater checks and balances but then omits to seek public feedback on a Bill that does away with substantive judicial review.”

Saying that the Government had been considering introducing FICA for “many months,” he asked, “Why was it so difficult to undertake a period of public consultation before it was tabled for first reading?”

The Bill was introduced in Parliament only on Sept 13. The Bill was deemed problematic by many, especially the opposition parties.

On Sept 29, the WP proposed amendments to FICA, saying, “While The Workers’ Party believes in the legitimate need to counter malign acts of foreign interference, we disagree with the current form of the Bill in achieving the said objective.”

Dr Tan Cheng Bock, PSP’s chairman, expressed similar concerns on Sept 25. While he underlined that PSP fully supports non-interference, he also said, “What is significant is the extensive powers given to the ministers to execute the bill.”

“Is FICA really to prevent foreign interference? Or is it a means to stifle freedom of expression, alternative views and political discourse in the name of foreign interference?”

He called it “irresponsible” of the government to push the bill through “hastily” over three weeks.

In Parliament on Monday, Mr Singh underlined the importance of safeguarding Singaporeans’ rights. 

“The Government must be accountable when it implements this law and uses executive powers against individuals and entities. While the Bill targets foreign interference, Singaporeans are the central focus, and it is important that their constitutional rights are respected. There has to be greater clarity and transparency on the entities and individuals affected by this Bill.”

WP MP He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC) echoed this yesterday when she said, that FICA’s impact will affect not only those who are active in politics. 

“The way it has been drafted and passed has the potential to adversely affect ordinary Singaporeans in ways that may not be initially obvious: it is like a Trojan Horse that appears benign at first but unravels upon passage, in two main ways,” said Ms He, a lawyer.

Mr Singh’s speech may be found in full at this link: Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act (FICA)–speech by LO Pritam Singh


Read also: PSP head Francis Yuen calls FICA a “draconian bill”, says more time needed for review

PSP head Francis Yuen calls FICA a “draconian bill”, says more time needed for review