How Parliament Became a Pokemon Go Gym Yesterday

It was a battle of wills and wit.

According to NMP Kuik Shiao-Yin, the debate on the Bill spelling out contempt of court, or the Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill, started at 230pm. It finally ended at 930pm.

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Here’s a lowdown on some of the verbal battles that happened in the Pokemon Go gym at Parliament yesterday.

  1. Does the Bill suppress freedom of speech?

Low Thia Khiang (Worker’s Party, WP):

This is double standards, giving the Government all the rights but not the people .

K Shanmugam (People’s Action Party, PAP):

It doesn’t really affect what (people) can do or what they have been doing. Unless they want to think in terms of going public and attacking witnesses and judges, and trying to get certain results from the court.

Remember, those who attack the judges fall within a wide spectrum — from the idealistic, to those who are constitutionally sour, to those who are outright dishonest.

Ministry of law protection bill contempt

2. Was it a sudden decision?

Leon Perera (WP): 

The government has decided to rush to legislate, with no formal consultative process on the text of the bill prior to first reading.

K Shanmugam (PAP):

I didn’t know you’ll consider six years a rush to legislate. It is slow by the Government’s standards.

(We checked Reach’s website and Facebook post asking for views on this Bill in July 2016. Only 4 people responded in total. In addition, we also found the original January 2010 request by Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong below requesting the Minister of Law to consider enacting a law of contempt of court in Singapore in statutory form)

Chan Sek Keong 2010 contempt of court

 

3. Rights of the ordinary citizen: freedom of speech versus prejudice

Daniel Goh (WP):

I am an ordinary citizen who would like to be able to express fair criticism and fair comment on events of public interest that concerns me.

I therefore do not see the need for this law to be enacted. In fact, this law is not only unnecessary, it also gives the executive unprecedented powers that would silence public discussion on the facts of cases of great public interest.

K Shanmugam (PAP):

Do we really want to say to the ordinary man in the street that it is okay for his trial to be prejudiced, and it is okay for him to be unfairly treated, because it is incidental to someone else’s right to comment?

The people who are the loudest on these issues are usually the people who can take care of themselves. We are here to protect all Singaporeans, including those voices which are not heard.

LadyJustice

4. Is the Bill necessary?

British High Commission:

The UK will continue to urge Singapore and all countries which retain ‘Scandalising the Judiciary’ to abolish it

(The British High Commissioner later said the comment came from his press office and was not specific to Singapore)

K Shanmugam (PAP): 

If you want to intervene in a debate and make a comment, then at least have the courage of your convictions and not beat a hasty retreat at the first question.

He said if the High Commission was “really serious and sincere” about its statement, “one would have expected them to touch base and talk to us”.

 

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Adrianna Tan

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