Thursday, April 06, 2006

BBC NEWS | Technology | Singapore attacked over blog gag

*Mr Fluffy innocently wonders if he is engaging in party politics by mentioning the above*

Now they probably are some bleeding heart knee-jerk liberals amongst my readers who love the notion of a liberal democracy so much that they might be whining right now as to how their freedom of speech and freedom of expression is being curtailled by this supposedly reprehensible move by our ruling party.

But here's what our Constitution says,

Freedom of speech, assembly and association
14. —(1) Subject to clauses (2) and (3) —

(a) every citizen of Singapore has the right to freedom of speech and expression;

(b) all citizens of Singapore have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms; and

(c) all citizens of Singapore have the right to form associations.

(2) Parliament may by law impose —

(a) on the rights conferred by clause (1) (a), such restrictions as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore or any part thereof, friendly relations with other countries, public order or morality and restrictions designed to protect the privileges of Parliament or to provide against contempt of court, defamation or incitement to any offence;

(b) on the right conferred by clause (1) (b), such restrictions as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore or any part thereof or public order; and

(c) on the right conferred by clause (1) (c), such restrictions as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore or any part thereof, public order or morality.

In short? This ain't the US where their Constitution says that "Congress shall make no laws abridging the freedom of speech...". Their "right" may be absolute but not so ours and it is evident that in the wisdom of our Constitutional drafters that this was the most dangerous of freedoms and rights and needed to be curtailed to the extent necessary that teh rightfully elected and democratic Parliament should decide.

And don't bother trying to impugn it under administrative law. It's perfectly within the powers to make subsidiary legislation and entirely within jurisdiction and the rule of law and natural justice.

So there!

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5 Comments:

At 8:24 AM, Blogger Aaron Keogh said...

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At 2:06 AM, Anonymous ted said...

Really? You lawyer student types grate on people's nerves because you guys have the temerity of making pronouncements like you did.

Here try refuting ALex Au's perspective:

Do these laws violate the Constitution anyway?

One thing that we may be overlooking is that these laws may be in violation of the Constitution anyway.

The Constitution is supreme over our laws. If a law violates the Constitution, that law is null and void [3]. In that case, it's pointless for a minister to try to clarify how the law would be applied.

Clause 14 (1)(a) of Singapore's Constitution says, "every citizen of Singapore has the right to freedom of speech and expression."

A little further down, a few exceptions to the above guarantee are stated:

Parliament may by law impose... on the rights conferred by clause (1) (a), such restrictions as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore or any part thereof, friendly relations with other countries, public order or morality and restrictions designed to protect the privileges of Parliament or to provide against contempt of court, defamation or incitement to any offence;

It's worth noting that no exception is provided to the free speech provision on the grounds that certain speech is political. So, unless one really stretches the meaning of "security", "public order" or "morality", it's hard to see a constitutional basis for circumscribing speech just because it promotes any political or even party political point of view. And speech includes podcasting and videocasting.

Source: www.yawningbread.org

 
At 8:50 AM, Blogger Shaun Lee said...

Dear Ted,

Come on man, you've read enough of my post to know where I really stand on this issue.

I thought the "title" and introduction by Mr. Fluffy should have been a dead giveaway =)

 
At 8:51 AM, Blogger Shaun Lee said...

Oops...I meant blog posts not simply post

 
At 9:02 AM, Blogger Shaun Lee said...

Despite my personal inclinations to the contrary, the Constitution is unfortunately not as favourable as you or Alex have put it.

Unlike almost every other clause in the Constitution regarding fundamental liberties, the freedom of speech is curtailed right from the very beginning. I reproduced it in my original post, where clause 1 starts off with a qualifier and very clearly states, that the freedom of speech is subject to clause 2 and 3. Clauses 2 and 3 give tremendous power to the minister but furthermore, the court has taken a construction that views social order, security as a "paramount mandate" i.e. any contravention would automatically make that action or speech or expression void.

Much as I sympathise (and agree) with Alex's view, what he is making is at heart a political and not a legal argument.

Legally speaking, we shouldn't be thinking of it in terms of a right which is then qualified but more of a residuary right i.e. you are free to speak except those specifically prohibited by law.

From a realist point of view, I wouldn't look to the Constitution to protect your fundamental liberties, in a sense, Singapore is still at heart a Westminster system in that it really is up to Parliament to protect your rights.

The Court have very clearly decided that their role is to construe the Constitution very strictly and leave the rest to Parliament.

 

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