Friday, April 28, 2006

TV forum with MM Lee shows English-educated S'poreans are westernised, lack Asian values. Fix the school curriculum

Bah, I lost my first post so I'm going to retype it without your usual snarky comments. Logic enforcement will still be practiced though.

I refer to the recent televised forum with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. Why should anyone be surprised about what happened? It is not a question of who's right or wrong.

When you remove all OB (out-of-bounds) markers, you expect nothing less than a free-for-all discussion. Blaming the young participants in the forum is counter-productive and unfair. They genuinely believed they were doing their best in such a one-off opportunity with MM Lee in a televised dialogue.

Okay, first things first. What is an OB marker in our particular political venecular lexicon? Best as I can determine, it refers to an issue that cannot be discussed politically (an oddity of our freedom of expression is that academic freedom is pretty wide-ranging, just don't publish them outside of your obscure academic journals as an ex-NUS Mr Christopher Bridge found out when he published an article in IHT accusing nameless Asian governments of using the judiciary to silence political opposition.)

Note that OB issues are not necessary pertaining to politics, so it's perfectly fine to publish an article in Today defending high ministerial salaries. But when the same foreign journalist published another article asking the government to lighten up and loosen restrains on expression and speech, he was accused of interferring in the domestic politics of Singapore (which by the way is defined judically so broadly as to emcompass any commentary on the policies of the government. Only applies to all your awful foreign press though who go around trying to set our domestic agenda. Tsk tsk.)

There are several conclusions we can draw from this forum.

Unfortunately none of them his.

Firstly, some of our young, especially the English-educated, are not just modernised but also westernised. They lack knowledge of Asian values which older people acquire as they get older and wiser.

Like our children, most of them do not understand their parents, take everything for granted and rebel when they get nagged. Most of them get over this phase when they grow up and settle down with children of their own.

Well, there's the obvious false dualism/dichotomy between "English-educated", modernisation and westernisation on the one hand and Asian values, age and wisdom on the other. In other words, ageism and generation gap and self-orientalisation in one neat assertion and unsubstantiated opinion.

Don't worry, the definitions and explaination come in a later paragraph.

Secondly, no matter how mature a society is, especially a diverse one like Singapore, you need OB markers. Remove them totally and chaos will prevail. Just look at the other societies around us. Personal or group freedom prevails over national interest. The result is perpetual disruption to economic growth and social instability.

Oh bother. Your classic strawman argument that freedom of speech leads to doom and gloom. Seriously though, no liberal has ever argued that any right or freedom is absolute. The right to move my fist ends at your nose, I have no right to shout fire in a crowded theatre yada yada. The only real issue is how, where and why we restrict and go about doing so because at the end of the day we are looking for a free-marketplace of ideas, not a fish market to be sure.

Nevertheless, to use a reductio ad absurdum, by extrapolating his logic, one should not discuss any contentious issue because of the economic fall-out. Obviously no one takes that line and the real question then becomes whether the simple discussion of an issue will lead to the sort of detrimental effects that he proclaims.

The problem with his line of argument is that it doesn't establish causation. Simply put there isn't a duality here where disproving one means proving the other. By way of illustration just remember that one can just as well be efficiently good as one can be efficiently bad. A good contrast would be Africa and Asia at the start of the 1960s, the similar nationalist authoritarian government but differences in economic policy leading to a massive discrepancy in economic growth. So the question must be which system of government better supports the notion of the freedom of speech and expression and can act as a check on the corrupting influences of power.
I think the present government's policies are already in place insofar as the OB markers are concerned. What needs to be improved are Asian values studies in the English education curriculum.

Without going too much into detail the history of the rise of Asian Values, it may seem that all it is is an opposition to a reverse orientalisation and gross generalisation of the West and its values. But there is a positive statement of Asian Values in our 5 Shared Values.
* Nation before community and society before self
* Family as the basic unit of society
* Community support and respect for the individual
* Consensus, not conflict
* Racial and religious harmony
NE and Social Studies not enough is it? Bah.
Chinese culture with strong Asian values are inherent in the Chinese language itself. In my opinion, most of the Chinese-educated are more likely to have a stronger feel of Asian values.

What's with the sinocentricism here? What about the other non-Chinese races and culture?

As a parting shot, consider that he hasn't established the superiority of "Asian Values" but simply uses it as a categorisation for the stuff he likes. But maybe one should plot the average education of the so-called "Chinese-educated" (considering his emphasis on age here) and the average education of your post 65ers and maybe one can come to the conclusion that "we" are simply better educated and have more critical and analytical skills.

And with that, I'm back!


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Thursday, April 27, 2006

*Brava! Exams are over!*

Tune in soon and regularly for your daily dose of fallacies and blog commentary.

Peace y'all!


Friday, April 21, 2006

*Bulwark against Stupidity, Insipidness and downright Ridiculousness*

I'm taking a break till my exams and this entire elections is over. The stuff that gets produced by the local media and certain members of the public simply over load my irony meter, blow my gaskets and generally just drain me.

So comments are still open but no new posts for quite a while I would think.



Tuesday, April 18, 2006

U.S. pushes to limit generic drug rights - Business - International Herald Tribune

*A new development in the AIDS Generic Drugs Patent Debate?*

Some context first. One of the agreements that was accepted in TRIPS (Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) was that upon declaration of a national health emergency, a nation could ignore existing patents on certain drugs like the AIDS drugs by manufacturing generic versions within their own country and selling them within their own country as well. Fair enough. The problem is that many of these countries ravaged by AIDS don't have the capability to do so and thus they turn to India and Brazil instead. And the reason why India and Brazil are allowed to export these generics for sale is because they are not parties to TRIPS yet, although they will be in 2008, which would give rise to a seperate set of problems.

My guess is that the reason why the US is getting individual agreements is to pre-empt any possibility of a rectification of the current global agreement. The pressure come 2008 might be so great that the US might agree to change that particular clause in TRIPS to allow for the import of generics. So these individual agreements would nicely get around that particular problem.

But this really isn't a new development. I think it's part of a wider movement to harmonise IP rights standards and enforcement to the higher US standard and that this is being done through the FTAs. The two most recent examples of this happening was our very own new Copyrights Act as well as Australia's amendments post FTA with the US.

Now it has to be emphasised that this is not necessarily a bad thing, but neither is it good either. A lot will have to depend on an objective assessment of whether these higher IP standards have a causal link to increase content and IP in society. Because at the end of the day, the whole area of IP law is an attempt to balance two conflicting aims: a) the protection of an author's own work (which includes all these blog posts of mine for example) and b) to encourage more information passing into the public domain.

Where this trade-off is most obvious is when one compares a trade-secret is a patent. In a patent, the government grants the inventor a temporary limited monopoly for the exploitation of his work. In return, the inventor basically sets out exactly how the invention works and this information passes into the public domain once the monopoly period is up. In contrast while a trade secret could theoretically last forever (like the formula of Coca Cola), it is premised on it never getting leaked out for once the information passes into the public domain, it remains in the public domain and at best the company can sue the person leaking the confidential information is there had been some form of relationship that established that the information was indeed confidential e.g. a fiduciary relationship or a non-disclosure agreement. But even then the remedy is pretty much limited to a breach of confidence.

Obviously, higher IP standards would prima facie encourage greater creativity as people are assured of their rights to their works but at the same time, this also obviously means that less work passes into the public domain for any given amount of time. And of course there are other considerations including how knowledge never stands alone but is created on the back of prior knowledge and as a result higher IP standards could easily go either way.

Anyway, just more stuff for debaters to swot up on.



Monday, April 17, 2006

The Daily: Affirmative Action for Male Students

So it now appears that the absolute worst subgroup to be if one wants to apply for a place in University is to be a middle-class, female, Asian-American from a private school?

This is one of those issues I really hate to deal with in debates because it revolves what is essentially a very empty concept of a supposedly substantive word, "Equality". Without going into the philosophical discussion of why it is empty (essentially it doesn't add to our understanding and rapidly becomes tautological), perhaps the simplest way I have seen put it across to me is this. Every argument made on the basis of equality can be countered on the basis of equality.

At its heart one can more or less divide equality into two different subcategories i.e. equality of outcome (egalitarianism?) and procedural equality.

But even then, when one talks about procedural equality, one inevitably has to come with the stark problem of Affirmative Action. At its heart, it is a form of discrimination, but it is a legitimate form of discrimination (putting aside for now the problems of implimentation and criteria) on a principled level? I think most of us if given the appropriate context will probably agree that it is. The clearest example would be that of post-Apartheid South Africa where a mechanical application of the rules would see the continued dominance of the privilleged class over the rest by virtue of their prior eminence and dominance. So Affirmative Action CAN in a manner of speaking equalize the playing field.

But as should be apparent to any observent reader, this does not address the issue of what the outcome is suppose to be. Basically, is it/can it be said to be presumptive true that ceteris peribus there would then be an equality of outcome? While acknowledging that Asian-Americans and Asians in general never suffered the sort of direct discrimination that the African-Americans did, at the same time, they are a much more substantial minority, relatively new migrants and generally did not possess either a felicity with English nor the same sort of prior establishment that earlier migrants could claim to have. But despite that, Asians are so overrepresented and have dominated University campuses to such a degree that Universities are beginning to discriminate against them in applications.

But let's put away race because of its very complications and focus primarily on gender instead because at least there are a lot less genders to have to actively consider. I'm not really sure about transgendered applicants but as far as I'm aware it's not been raised as an issue.

So let's rephrase the issue: should schools be discriminating in favour of males despite worser grades? But then we hit a hitch, because the since genders are spread through socio-economic-political environments in almost equal and similar proportions throughout, the presumption underlying the University's form of AA MUST necessarily be that of the notion that diversity is good and that too many females is not good or not as good as it would be the case if there are a more proportionate balance.

I'm really of two minds over this. To put this into context, I think most Universities in this issue are generally keeping to a 60:40 female:male ratio. So while I generally believe that diversity is good but at the same time, I believe in meritocracy. And I personally think that at some time I will probably think that the environment of the University is so irrevocably changed by the skewed gender ratio that I probably will agree with such a policy.

Where that magical ratio is however, I have no idea. But then again, I enjoyed my two years in JC under the Humanz Programme which had a gender ratio of 75:25 female:male. But I wouldn't have minded more male classmates I suppose.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Try Charles Taylor in Africa - Editorials & Commentary - International Herald Tribune

Forgive the odd one liner commentary and equally puzzling blog entries and link choice for the next few weeks. These entries are more likely than not going to be probable and possible motions that I'll be working on with the team once the exams are over.

But just off the top of my head, I think if one takes the baseline as Saddam Hussein's trial within Iraq, then trying Charles Taylor arguably has fewer weaknesses than the difficulty of trying the immediate ruling predecessor of a nation where decades of social, economic and political control have ravaged the judicial infrastructure.


Friday, April 14, 2006

When is Action, Speech and Speech, Action?

One of the things that I bang about on on this blog, other than sex education, law and politics is that of Free Speech, a constitutional protection under Article 14 (though do see my previous posts on the phrasing of our constitutional protection) and perhaps the very thing that recognises our worth. For if we are not recognised as autonomous, rational individuals, then our ability to think and express and propergate through speech would be non-existant.

My views on speech are very heavily influence by the approach I saw adopted, firstly during the time prior to the loosening of speech in local politics, and then when I started debating, on the issue of hate speech and in particular the approach (formerly, see current qualifier below) adopted by the US (First Amendment) and the EU (Convention on Civil and Political Rights).

But more recently, when I defended a classmate for his personal expressions of what many considered racist. And again during the whole racist-bloggers incident. Throughout it all, the constant question that I kept putting forth was this, given that their speech neither advocated nor incited violence, why should unpopular speech be criminalised? Yes, I am well aware of the Sedition Act and yes, I am very well aware that our constitutional right to free speech may as well as be the Common Law residuary right to speech. But that's really besides the point. Just because an action is criminalised does not make it wrong per se, here mandatory seat-belt laws come to mind.

And it is in that particular framework that I really want to talk about the freedom of speech and expression. But before I go on, just a number of links that I think help provide some bits of interesting recent developments. Firstly, a Professor at Northern Kentucy University was so offended at a school-sanctioned display by a pro-life group which had erected hundreds of crosses, that during a break she had asked: "if any students wanted to participate in practicing their freedom of speech in destroying the very offensive right to life, anti-abortion display in the central plaza." And they did including the Professor.

Oddly for a literature professor, she seemed not to have understood what is meant by the freedom of speech.

But what about cross buring then? Once upon a time, a burning cross on your lawn was almost a prelude to a lynching unless you got out of town. Today, it is a symbol of racial hatred and intolerance, something that persists even till today, sometimes to deadly effect. Here it is worth comparing two similar (not identical mind you because of the content of the statute. I promise to go into more of it later) cases. The first is R.A.V. v. St. Paul, which held that a statute criminalising the display of certain symbols with the intent of arousing anger (including burning crosses) was non-constitutional. That was then. Now, we have, Virginia v. Black, which decided that a burning cross is no longer protected speech. I don't think I want to go into the arguments of this case, partly because of time constrains and partly because this Slate article on this issue is just a lot of fun to read.

What I do want to bring up is the so-called "Nelson Mandela argument". It goes something like this: If the law would put Nelson Mandela into jail, it shouldn't be law. Far be it for me to say that anything Mr Mandela did is equivalent to what the KKK did to make a buring cross a symbol of fear (although I don't think Mr Mandela ever condemned the ANC for their actions back when they were still engaging in terrorist activities, in fact I think he thought they were justified), nevertheless, one need not go so far as to think that the Sedition Act could have been used against him as could, for example, the new laws against "hate-preachers" in Britain. Because laws can and have always been abused by those in power.

But the kicker is this. In the RAV case, the justices pointed out that the city's ordinance had been used previously during the Jim Crow era, AGAINST civil rights activists and groups. This is where I think the distinctions in the statutes make quite a big conceptual difference. In the RAV case, the statute basically banned a bunch of displays other than buring crosses e.g. Nazi-swastika. In the Black case, the focus was almost entirely and exclusively on cross burning (which to me violates one of the fundamental tenats of the law, that it be general) and with a qualifer clause that it had to have the intend to intimidate.

However, this leads to the very obvious question. If the only way this statute can pass constitutional muster is if the very act of cross buring is a threat of bodily harm, then the intend to intimidate is AUTOMATICALLY established by the very act itself and therein lies the circularity of the argument (or at the very minimum, the eradication of a presumption of innocence). I suppose it might be possible to burn a cross without having an intent to intimidate......but that's not the intention of this particular (targetted) law.

Which brings me by a very circular route back to the point I was intending to make. Most of my readers would agree that the NKU Professor was wrong in the action she advocated and partook of. Similarly, I believe some (maybe even most) of my readers would probably accept the US Supreme Court decision that buring crosses transcend unpopular (even obnoxious) political speech to actual threat/intent to intimidate. So I put this question to you. What if the crosses that had been planted was by a militant pro-lifer group i.e. the sort that go beyond picketing to obstructing or intimidating the doctors, nurses and patients? What if they had been buring crosses by the local chapter of the KKK?

I know that not everyone will accept the argument but I hope to be able to get across why I don't think that societal's approval or disapproval of a particular viewpoint should ever be subject to criminalisation.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

CBC: The Fifth Estate - Sticks and Stones

*This made my day*

Hillarious exchange between McKeown and Ann Coulter (America's most biased pundit, 2nd is Paul Krugman though) where McKeown catches out Coulter on an error with regards to Canada's participation in Vietnam and Indo-China.

If anyone has read Coulter's book and that person isn't a rabid right wing nut, would definately appreciate why I enjoyed seeing her taken down a peg. The same way I enjoy Michael Moore being taken down as well. I think extremist on both ends general serve to hurt politics more than anything else. This is not to say that I think extreme viewpoints should be censored (*gasp* that's an extreme viewpoint on the freedom of speech) but that moderates should be making their voices heard more.

Anyway, the look on her face is priceless.



Sunday, April 09, 2006

*A little ethics experiment*

This was done after a night to sleep deprivation and partially inspired by a number of things. A) A quiz on how evil I really was (I scored 22% in case anyone wanted to know). B) Similar questions of this sort often relating to utilitarianism. C) The notion (maintained in a Law 1 class on Legal Theory) that a moral person would never kill strikes me as more than a little odd considering the notions of just war and justifiable homicide and most of all, self defence. But anyway, this isn't meant to be an exhaustive list and it's heavily skewed by reason that I put monetary gain as the first criterion.

Feel free to mix and match and come up with where you think your line is.

How long would it take before you kill a person?

1. You would kill a person

2. You would kill a person for a million dollars

3. You would kills a person for a million dollars and are guaranteed not to be caught

4. You would kill a person for a million dollars, are guaranteed not to be caught and the person is a stranger

5. You would kill a person for a million dollars, are guaranteed not to be caught, the person is a stranger whose death would not hurt you personally

6. You would kill a person for a million dollars, are guaranteed not to be caught, the person is a stranger whose death would not hurt you personally or your family

7. You would kill a person for a million dollars, are guaranteed not to be caught, the person is a stranger whose death would not hurt you personally or your family or anyone whom you care about

8. You would kill a person for a million dollars, are guaranteed not to be caught or convicted, the person is a stranger whose death would not hurt you personally or your family or anyone whom you care about and the person is a criminal

9. You would kill a person for a million dollars, are guaranteed not to be caught or convicted, the person is a stranger whose death would not hurt you personally or your family or anyone whom you care about and the person is a criminal who had committed a felony

10. You would kill a person for a million dollars, are guaranteed not to be caught or convicted, the person is a stranger whose death would not hurt you personally or your family or anyone whom you care about and the person is a criminal who had committed multuiple felonies

11. You would kill a person for a million dollars, are guaranteed not to be caught or convicted, the person is a stranger whose death would not hurt you personally or your family or anyone whom you care about and the person is a criminal who had committed a crime against humanity

12. You would kill a person for a million dollars, are guaranteed not to be caught or convicted, the person is a stranger whose death would not hurt you personally or your family or anyone whom you care about and the person is a criminal who had committed a crime against humanity and who is unrepentent

13. You would kill a person for a million dollars, are guaranteed not to be caught or convicted, the person is a stranger whose death would not hurt you personally or your family or anyone whom you care about and the person is a criminal who had committed a crime against humanity and who is unrepentent and would lead to a better world.

14. You would kill a person for a million dollars, are guaranteed not to be caught or convicted, the person is a stranger whose death would not hurt you personally or your family or anyone whom you care about and the person is a criminal who had committed a crime against humanity and who is unrepentent and would lead to a better world and would immediately save the live of one innocent person

15. You would kill a person for a million dollars, are guaranteed not to be caught or convicted, the person is a stranger whose death would not hurt you personally or your family or anyone whom you care about and the person is a criminal who had committed a crime against humanity and who is unrepentent and would lead to a better world and would immediately save the live of a busload of innocent persons

Coming from a person who supported the liberalisation/invasion of Iraq, it would obviously be remiss and hypocritical of me to say that I would never kill. But in the course of this experiment as I was working out the various changing criterions, I realise that for me to personally and volitionally kill a person would more than a fair bit. So much so that I wonder if such a situation would ever present itself to me in reality. So you people can breathe easy now =P



Feeling Fisky

After 3 plus straight hours of Administrative Law, I'm feeling fisky as in without the 'r' as in I'm in a fisking mood. So it never hurts to have a letter from my favourite fundy group Focus on the Family to talk about.

At this point I should probably put in a disclaimer that despite me being on the SPPA youth committee, in no way does the following commentary reflect anything but my own personal views.

I couldn't link to a free copy on the "Interactive" (why not just call it online, I don't find it particularly interactive) ST site, you'll have to find your own copy.

Anyway, here's "With help, Teens can do the right thing", and I'm going to look at the mathematicians and staticians who read my blog for some help with the stat they cite.

So let's take their statistic on the supposite efficacy of their program, "No Apologies", in case any of you actually wondered, it's to create the fundy's favourite martyr complex i.e. the WHOLE WORLD is pumping sex in your direction yada yada blah.

Assuming all figures are true, from a sample of 17,000 young people in the community for whom they did their programme for, here's their finding. On average (mean I presume), 76% do not believe in pre-marital sex but post-workshop, it rises to 92% (an incredible 12% rise over their reported figures in the little phamplet they have). So what does this really say about the program? Well, one thing that we can be assured of, this is indeed a statistically significant increase. If one were to take the former 80%, it might well be a statistical fluke.

Unfortunately then, what this figure tells me is that lies and fear and undue influence work when they sound authorative enough. And the organisation does indeed use very standard lies (despite the fact that they have been repeatedly rebutted they make no attempt to change the information. I think this goes beyond wilful ignorance to actual lying) with regards to the efficacy of condoms with regards to prevalence of STDs and pregnancy.

And they don't give the opposing viewpoint. I would love to see how they deal with a proper Q&A section with a proper psychologist and doctor who has kept up with the relevant readings in this area. And of course, a debater who doesn't give a damn about religion and religious authority.

Because at the end of the day, until you demonstrate that pre-martital sex is intrinsically bad and that the extrinsic harms that come with pre-martital sex cannot be dealt with by a decent sexual education that does not promote abstinence only, then what Focus on the Family is doing is really real harm, limiting the choices of youth and adults in determining their sexual lives, depriving them of information, putting more guilt on youths who are fighting with a freaking biological imperative and worse of all, probably causing way more harm than good when our youths don't know how to deal with STDs and unwanted pregnancies.

I would seriously love for them to come down to NUS. =P And I invite all my regular readers to ask question, just that, ask questions and for proper citations. For at the end of the day, religion and religious views are never an unmitigated good. Especially when it comes to sex and sexual education. And our youths deserve better.


Addendum: This post has been slightly editted for grammatical errors.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

*Clarifications are needed it seems*

I would have thought that the rather hysterical and (hopefully) uncharacteristic tone and form of argumentation that I used yesterday would have signalled to regular readers that I wasn't really being very serious about the views advocated.

Particular when it had Mr Fluffy remarking on the absurdity of what constitutes politics and politicking, something inherent in the "blog gag" as the BBC puts it.

But it seems that I have upset Ted, which definately wasn't my intention seeing as he is perhaps the only regular commenter on my blog.

Nevertheless, seeing as he points me to the's commentary on this issue and I need some revision for public law, let's examine this issue a lot more seriously. Since it is fair comment the MDA shouldn't be coming after me =)

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.

He's right in reminding us that the Constitution is the supreme law of our land, it being both heirachically and logically precedent to legislation passed by Parliament because it gives Parliament its powers to make law in the first place. Article 4 is the Constitutional Supremacy clause and it basically says that any laws that are inconsistent with the Constitution, is to the extend of its inconsistency, void.

Good stuff that. That basically draws a big (theoretical) distinction between the UK Westminster System and the Westminster system that is otherwise practiced by the rest of the Commonwealth. Under the British Westminster system, Parliament is supreme and their courts have acknowledged that Parliament could in theory because of their supremacy, effectively eradicate all forms of Human Rights. Of course, their parliamentary system and the basic decency of a mature democracy would never allow that, notwithstanding Blair's 700 new criminal laws and his attack on youths in general. It's also worth pointing out that the Human Rights Act of 1998 does not give the same powers to strike down laws as our courts do, it's just that there is a huge political price to be paid if the court should hold that a piece of legislation is inconsistent with the act.

But as I quoted yesterday from the Constituion, the right to free speech is the only fundamental liberty that from the beginning of its article is already qualified. Such that despite this being an ostensible fundamental liberty, I do wonder whether it bears more resemblence instead to the common law notion of residuary right i.e. you have that right only insofar as it does not contravene any properly enacted bit of legislation. So a proper articulation of the issue should be the extent to which the court have construed the article and the extent to which it is prepared to differ to the judgement of Parliament. But more on that below.
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.

Here the situation gets very very interesting. Let's deal with the Adminstrative Law issue first i.e. what empowers the minister to make the regulations that he makes.

Here is where we turn to statute and in particular, the Parliamentary Election Act (Cap. 218). Sections 78, 78A and 102 gives the power to the minister to make regulations as to election advertising (and in general). Pursuant to these powers, we have the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations. Without delving into the intricacies of Administrative law and the grounds one uses to impugn subsidiary legislation (judicial and non-judicial controls), the conclusion is that the Minister is absolutely entitled to make the regulations he did.

On second thoughts, it looks like we're going to need to deal with it. I don't want to deal with non-judicial controls because it's not an issue here so I'll turn instead to judicial controls and the two main methods one uses to impugn a subsidiary legislation.
1. Procedural ultra-vires (outside of jurisdiction) i.e. breach of mandatory procedural requirements in parent statute and breach of rules of natural justice, see the Interpretation Act (Cap. 1), s. 19, 23 and 48. So if one looks at the parent statute (the Parliamentary Elections Act) and the relevent statutes listed above, it should be apparent that the minister was within his powers when he made those regulations

2. Substantive ultra vires e.g. unreasonableness, oppression, bad faith. Without delving too much into case law, the standard to impugn is really pretty high. You going to have to need to demonstrate something along the lines of targeting only specific parties (bad faith) or some form of improper purpose, or some form of unreasonableness so extreme that NO reasonable person would have come up with it.

While a case could be made on the last point, it seems that considering the object of the act and regulations (see below) and the restrictions imposed i.e. fair comment is allowed but not active electioning (, I don't think it would be impugned.

Which leaves us with the Constitutional issue. As can be seen from the Constitution, there are eight grounds by which Parliament may restraint speech. So the "threshold issue" is whether or not a court may review legislation which (potentially) contravenes art. 14(1)(a). There are basically 2 approaches that a court could take.
1. That the right to free speech is essentially subject to whatever laws Parliament may make and that the words "necessary and expedient" should be read subjectively to mean that it is beyond the court's capacity and competency to question the necessity or expediency of the legislation passed. This would indicate that regardless of how harsh and unreasonable the restriction may be, Parliament's law stands.
2. That despite what is said, the court will read into the Constitution some notion of "reasonable restriction" on the offending legislation.

I seriously doubt the second Indian approach will find much favour here seeing that the court has generally taken a very strict separation of power and literal interpretation of the Constitution and an aversion against judicial activism, prefering instead to avere to the democratic will of Parliament (which makes theoretical sense seeing as judges aren't elected). Furthermore, in cases like Colin Chan v PP (relgious freedom case), the court took a very precautionary stance in that things that like national security and social order, which were a "paramount mandate" would automatically trumpt any action that would have the tendancy to infringe upon them.

As such, given the likely subjective approach that is taken, I point you to the parliamentary debate on the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment No. 2) Bill which basically removed a 1997 ban on internet election advertising and put forward the blanket (it applied to all parties and forms of mass media) restriction on the types of advertising allowed.

What I hope to draw my readers attention to is Mr Lee Yock Suan's speech and the reasons for this particular amendment.
Parliamentary elections are of vital importance to Singapore and should be conducted in a fair and orderly manner, free from distractions and undue influence. Our electoral processes also need to be updated to take into account new developments such as the Internet. This Bill proposes amendments to the Parliamentary Elections Act to, firstly, regulate political campaigning on the Internet; secondly, prohibit the publication during the election period of the results of opinion surveys on how electors intend to vote; and, thirdly, disallow a person from contesting simultaneously in more than one constituency. I will cover each of these issues in turn.

Internet Political Campaigning

The General Election in 1997 took place under rules that predated the Internet and did not allow political parties to post election materials on their websites during the campaign. At the time, few people had access to the Internet.

In the five years since, the popularity of the Internet has grown tremendously. Singapore already has the highest Internet penetration rate in Asia at 48%. Broadband access, which currently stands at around 90,000 subscribers, will become even more widespread in a few years.

Mr Speaker, Sir, contrary to what the media have been speculating, the Government has decided to allow political campaigning on the Internet in the upcoming General Election. However, a free-for-all Internet campaigning environment without rules is not advisable. The Internet is a double-edged sword. Whilst it facilitates discussion and communication, the seriousness of political debates may be cluttered by noise, mischief or frivolities during the election period. Worse, the anonymity in the Internet opens a door for surreptitious elements to mislead, distract and confuse the public. On the Internet, once a false story or rumour is started, it is like water that has been spilt. It is almost impossible to remedy matters, especially in the limited period of an election campaign.

The Government has always maintained that politics should be based on factual and objective presentation of issues, and reasoned debate. Regulations are therefore necessary to protect the integrity of our electoral process, and guide responsible use of the Internet during the elections.

So I think that if push came to shove and some intripid citizen were to go to court to impugn the regulations or legislation, he is going to find it nigh impossible seeing that the legislation was properly passed by parliament, the subsidiary legislation properly made by the minister and there are reasonable as well as constitutional grounds for the restrictions that are present in the regulations and legislation made.

This is not really an exhaustive analysis as I did not want to delve into the individual cases and really explore what each case meant, means and might mean. Instead I hope to give a sense that a Realist viewpoint would look to parliament as the guardians of our fundamental liberties and that the current approach of our judiciary also prefers the notion of the democratic representatives of the electorate actually representing and protecting them.



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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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

*10000 hits mark!*

Thank you everyone who made it possible and have lit up the life of a poor struggling law student facing insane amounts of work on top of school work. And thank you all for continuing to visit despite the lack of regular updates recently.

Hopefull that will be rectified somewhat soon.


Boing Boing: Dude eats 40,000 ecstasy pills in 9 years

one wonders how it is that he hadn't managed to fry his internal organs as yet.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

*Vox Populi Rides Again!*

Fresh from our last-gasp insane come from behind victory during the ArtsQuiz, Vox Populi has struck gold one more time (with a cash prize of $500 to boot) at the Chancellor Challenge Shield 06. The icing on the cake was that we beat RJC, who pipped us to the champion spot last year.

Yeah, it seems they remembered us.

Some team highlights from the tournament include

1. Telepathy. During the pyramid game like first round which involved a describer describing a word or a phrase or a noun with the other two members guessing, we finally came across the following, Likhud Party.

S: The former breakaway party
CL: Likhud Party!
*Incredulous stare from David*

2. Confusion part one. From the same round, the next phrase was Canberra

S: Capital of Austria
CL: Canberra!
S: Right!
David: Wait! It's Vienna!
S: Eh heh heh...I mean Australia...

3. Confusion part two. Los Angeles

S: City of Angels!
David: Nicholas Cage!
S: Come on Mon! City of Angels not the movie!

4. Having to tell the science expert on the team (David) that he was wrong that sand had a organic basis (he seemed to have misunderstood the question).

Peace for now.