The Contempt Bill caused quite a stir among people who feared that it would be used as a tool to muzzle public opinion.
As the discomfort grew and with the Bill already passed through its first reading in July 2016, NMP Kok Heng Luen took the lead to submit a petition to Parliament on behalf of a group seeking to delay the passage of the Bill on contempt of court laws, which they believe may restrict discussion on issues on public interest.
During the debate in Parliament, Mr Pritam Singh, a member of the opposition party further highlighted that like POHA and the other bills before this, the government is bit by bit and over time reducing the civil liberty of Singaporeans and instilling fear to those who chose to speak up.
Heck we are no lawyers . . .
BUT we believed the Contempt Bill is a mistake.- Why would we want a Bill that could potentially get into us into a whole lot of trouble just by tweeting our opinions online!
Countless of questions later stretched the Parliament sitting past 9 pm.
The BILL was eventually passed.
We were numb. Why we asked ourselves.?
Members of parliament have exhausted highlighting every possible angle that could go wrong including the curbing of the freedom of speech and instilling fear in the layman but each and every concern was given a clear and resounding answer by the Minister for Law and Home Affairs – K Shanmugam
We were numb because the Workers’Party who had objected so strongly against the Bill, who had sought clarifications after clarifications to stress the dangers of the bill was ‘overpowered’ by the clear objective of the Bill as explained by K Shanmugam.
We were numb because we had expected the Workers’ Party to at least come up with some clauses / amendments of their own to be added on to the Bill so that it could reflect what they were arguing for all day.
They did not. Instead they called for a division (twice!) – which is essentially a revote. (Had to google this up. We are no lawyers remember!)
What was so clear about the Bill that the WP did not even call for an amendment?
Minister Shanmugam 15 min clip might give you an answer
(because he tends to lawyer speak too much, we took the liberty to re-word him below)
Are we rushing this Bill?
Heck no! I’ve been looking at this bill since the 90’s when we identified that there is clearly a gap in our law and worked on it since 6 years ago. The law of Contempt has always been there. I’m just putting it in black and white now (on hindsight, we should have done it years back so I would not have to deal with you clueless people).
Is this something new?
Nothing new la. Told you many times liow! If you cannot do it yesterday, you still would not be able to do it tomorrow. Contempt yesterday is still contempt tomorrow . . .
Will I go to jail for a tweet? Can I talk politics in coffee shop over beer?
We don’t suka-suka throw people into jail. There is a grave misunderstanding to what this Bill is all about. In order for you to be charged, we have to prove among a whole list of other factors that 1) you essentially called a judge bias AND 2) you incited others to act against the court ruling.
How does this Bill help Singaporeans?
Two ways. 1) It ensures that just because you are the loudest on social media, it does not follow that you are correct. This Bill protects the people who cannot speak up for themselves on social media (i.e the silent majority) by preventing a trial by media. 2) It takes the current law and put it in black and white what is lawful and what is unlawful so that there would be no more ambiguity on what you can or cannot do. It protects you as a citizen from the previously ‘grey’ areas in the law.
Take a look at the infographic by Minlaw below. Looks crystal clear to non lawyers like us.