SINGAPORE: Mr Ravi Philemon, the Secretary-General of the opposition Red Dot United (RDU) party, said in a Dec 22 (Friday) Facebook post that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) appears to have reconsidered the requirements for Politically Significant Person (PSP) after the party voiced objections to them.

Mr Philemon wrote that MHA had informed all political parties and their CEC members on Dec 11 regarding legislation involving PSPs under the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act (FICA), which is set to take effect on Dec 29. This includes requiring PSPs to have a dedicated bank account for all political donations.

On Dec 12, RDU wrote back to MHA to say that solicited donations go to the party’s bank account, not to its CEC members. Therefore, compliance with FICA’s requirements puts additional administrative and potential financial burdens on them, as it can cost at least S$500 to open an account and monthly service fees.

However, Mr Philemon added that MHA wrote back on Dec 18 to say there would be no changes to its rules for CEC members. RDU responded to MHA, expressing intent to comply with the new regulations.

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Nevertheless, “we felt that many issues were amiss with FICA, especially the new requirement for PSPs,” wrote Mr Philemon.

These issues are laid out in a statement published on Dec 21 on RDU’s website, titled, “Are FICA’s New Rules for PSPs Missing the Woods for the Trees?

“We questioned why the government assumes a linear and simplistic money trail associated with foreign influence. We pointed out that foreign interference in the political affairs of a nation is a multifaceted challenge, often involving covert operations, disinformation campaigns, and manipulation of various channels.”

After the back-and-forth exchanges and RDU’s statement, “the MHA seems to have reconsidered some of its requirements for PSPs,” said Mr Philemon in his post, adding that the ministry said on Dec 22 that is reviewing the requirement for PSPs who do not receive political donations, and that PSPs who have never received and do not expect to receive political donations need not have a separate bank account for donations until they start receiving them.

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Mr Philemon also posted a link to PAP’s article on FICA, “Is the Opposition undermining the threat of foreign interference?” published earlier this week,

“The article, in its many spurious claims, asserts that the Opposition (like RDU) is ‘misguided into opposing (FICA) for opposing sake,’ or that we oppose it to incite ‘division to mislead Singaporeans’ as that is ‘what (the) Opposition craves, and FICA has unwittingly tossed a spanner in the works,” noted Mr Philemon, who then added that “nothing could be further from the truth!”

He acknowledged the significance of a bill that would curb foreign interferences in Singaporean politics but added that FICA “falls short because it was enacted swiftly through a rapid legislative process, with minimal consultation with stakeholders, and despite objections (to the current form) from all opposition MPs.”

Mr Philemon also promised that RDU would continue championing accountability and transparency “as a responsible opposition party in Parliament.”

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