20 August 2019

What is the rational solution to the Hong Kong protests?

Thanks to Singapore's authoritarian and paternalistic leadership, its activists have never had a chance to commandeer a successful negotiation with the government. Deprived of such experience and pushed towards the "oppose, protest, and railblock" model of activism, these civil society actors fail to recognise that skilful negotiation is part and parcel of everyday social processes within a polity to moderate policy given disparate and competing preferences on the ground.

From the point of view of Singapore's activists, the Hong Kong protests can only end in a "Springtime for Xi Jinping" (aka the coup from above) or a "Hong Kong Spring" (aka the revolution from below), both of which fit into their experience of activism as futile but dramatic political theatre but are in fact the least likely outcomes in even semi-democratic, moderately liberal, wealthy polities like Hong Kong. Little is expected from Singapore's activists aside from virtuous signalling that they "stand in solidarity" with Hong Kong and will shed the requisite amount of tears of appropriate joy or sorrow when the time comes. But what happens when we approach the protests rationally?

15 May 2019

How will Singapore's leaders use its new Fake News law?

On 8 May 2019, the Singapore parliament passed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations bill into law. As of the time of the publication of this blog post, either the president has not given her assent or the minister has not made the decision to commence the law in the Gazette.

We noted earlier that even though the ruling People's Action Party has a supermajority which ensures the passage of any bill proposed by the cabinet, the key issues have always been whether the cabinet can gain the confidence of stakeholders and industry interests in the bill, whether there will be corrections or clarifications of the more unsettling portions of the bill, and whether the bill passed would satisfy that audience.

Power is power, or is it? The power to pass laws is absolute power, or is it?
A snapshot of attitudes, comments, and actions from stakeholders and members of the industry in the run-up to the debate suggest that clarifications at the very least had to be made and made convincingly, especially if no corrections or U-turns could be afforded by the cabinet on the bill.

So did the parliamentary debate provide suitable clarification to gain the confidence of industry interests and stakeholders?

16 February 2019

Does Singapore's Ministry of Health deserve immunity for data breach?

Singapore's largest data breach happened in July 2018 when a government hospital became the target of cyber-hackers. It is believed the hackers were after the medical data of Singapore's prime minister and cabinet colleagues. There was an inquiry and the local privacy watchdog, the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) fined the hospital and its technology vendor a total of S$1 million.

Proving Karl Marx's dictum about history repeating itself as a farce, Singapore's second largest data breach happened in 2016 when the ministry's very own HIV registry data was downloaded by Mikhy Farrera Brochez, the same-sex paramour of Ler Teck Siang, the head of its National Public Health Unit, but was only disclosed last week.

Why wasn't the public and the patients on the HIV registry informed in 2016? Why is the public and the patients on the HIV registry informed only now? The minister of health, Gan Kim Yong, explained in parliament the ministry made the right call because in 2016 the police thought they had deleted all copies of the HIV registry data from his devices. Since there was no evidence the data had been published, there was no need to inform those affected because informing them would cause distress and emotional harm.

Surprisingly, the minister suggested affected PLHIV could sue the ministry if they felt it made the wrong call.

Now that's a ministry of health clown show

29 January 2019

Should heads roll for Singapore army's training deaths?

Barely months after making reassuring noises in parliament about how safety is a top priority of training in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), defense minister Ng Eng Heng had far less to say following the death of Aloysius Pang. Pang, a former television actor turned entrepreneur, suffered fatal injuries when he was crushed by a Howitzer barrel during reservist training in New Zealand.

A military funeral at Mandai in 2017
for another reservist killed in another training incident in New Zealand
If you've been keeping count like concerned netizen Arrifin Sha, this is the 8th casualty in the past 1.5 years for the SAF. Yes, this is a significant figure. Yes, we have previously pointed out the toxic and vile culture in the Singapore army. But does this one additional statistic justify calls to remove an incompetent and uncaring minister or the chief of army from their posts? Or should Singaporeans rally together to protect the sacred institution that protects Singapore from shrill activists and political opportunists?