Monday, September 12, 2005

Re: The Sedition Act

Miyagi and Singapore Ink have suggested that the relevant definitions (see below) of seditious tendency in the seditious blogger incident are "ambiguous and nonstandard" or that "there are a variety of things you could do on your blog that might be construed as an act with a seditious tendency."

Part of the problem might be that I only cited the portions which seemed relevant to the details at hand; in full, s3(1) of the Sedition Act reads:

3. —(1) A seditious tendency is a tendency —

(a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the Government;

(b) to excite the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore to attempt to procure in Singapore, the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter as by law established;

(c) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Singapore;

(d) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore;

(e) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore.
I think it can be safely be said that these are, in general, reasonably clear. Whether they are non-standard requires a study in comparative laws which I can't be bothered to do, but Miyagi helpfully has stated (and given examples) that Singapore is not alone in enacting anti-racism laws. So we only have s3(1)(d) left.

This is what Miyagi is referring to when he says that there is a huge risk of writing something which may be regarded as seditious under the Act. He further suggests that even the anti-racism portions be expunged from this statue - "Enact an anti-racial vilification law, fellas. Leave the Sedition Act for specific seditious acts against the State."

I humbly suggest that this is unnecessary, for the following reasons:

1. Sedition is generally defined as an act against the state; Singapore is in a specific position (in terms of racial structure, geographical location, etc.) which makes racial harmony of utmost importance, and it is obvious that any disruption might be fatal.

2. Parliament has better things to do - I could name 10 other statues which need more clarification (or could do with recodification).

3. Related to point 2 - this is basically just labelling; perhaps it is a public relations issue, but reading anything more than the bare facts of the seditious blogger incident makes it clear that Singapore is not using it's Sedition Act in the supression of free speech.

The only problem left, therefore, is whether you or I could be rais(ing) discontent or disaffection amongst the citizens or residents of Singapore via our eloquent discourses upon the nature of the universe (and other peripheral matters). The answer to this is pretty simple - when is the last time anything anyone said qualified under this heading? (and remember the exceptions, in s3(2), see my previous post)

Indeed, having s3(1)(d) in the Sedition Act instead of the Discontent or Disaffection Act might even help; surely something which is considered to raise discontent or disaffection would have to be similar in at least some respects to the other limbs of s3(1).