Taking a broad interpretation of Section 78[2][c] of Singapore’s Election Act

This article appears in the The Online Citizens’ website:

Has the Elections Department misled the public?

I disagree with Prof Jack Lee’s take on section 78[2][c] of the Election Act.

Section 78[2][c] reads:

“the telephonic or electronic transmission by an individual to another individual of the first-mentioned individual’s own political views, on a non-commercial basis.”

Professor Jack Lee (Singapore Management University, Law faculty) seems to be taking a narrow, constrictive view when he explains thus:

“Unfortunately, the way the provision is drafted suggests that you are only permitted to communicate your personal political views to another individual, perhaps by e-mail or by SMS. If you use some medium such as Facebook or Twitter that allows your message to be read by third parties (including, potentially, Hougang voters), then it might be said that this is not a “transmission by an individual to another individual”.

The law permits “electronic transmission by an individual to another individual” but it does not specify that it has to be only one individual; if that is the case then it can be argued that the law has not made clear of the restriction in limiting such communication to between two individuals only. If the intention is to restrict communication to strictly between two individuals, then the provision can said to be deficiently couched, and one can say whoever was/were responsible for the enactment was/were not language proficient. If the intention was to restrict communication to strictly between two persons, then additional wording could have made it very clear; for instance: ““the telephonic or electronic transmission by an individual to another individual of the first-mentioned individual’s own political views, on a non-commercial basis; the electronic transmission from the first-mentioned individual being limited to one other individual only. But such a proscription would outturn as an oddity in law; why restrict to one other individual? What good reason or rationale can be offered for this?

As the law stands, I am allowed to sms my political views to, say, Eric. I can see no restriction in my sending a similar sms to, say, Adam or May; and by extension to several other people, on a separate basis. If 20 individuals have, separately, read my sms, then my political views as expressed in the sms, are known to 20 people. If I am allowed to send, on a separate basis, to dozens or scores of individuals, what good reason or rationale can be advanced to restrict me from posting my message in Facebook for others to read?

Let’s take a look at the information displayed on the Election Dept’s website:

http://www.eld.gov.sg/pressrel…

There are some exceptions to the prohibitions of knowingly publishing or displaying election advertising on Cooling-off Day and Polling Day:

a) Reports in the newspapers, on radio and television relating to election matters;

b) Party Political Broadcasts scheduled from 9pm onwards on Cooling-off Day

(please see MDA’s news release for more info)

c) Approved posters/banners lawfully displayed before the start of Cooling-off Day;

d) Election advertising that was lawfully displayed or published before the start of Cooling-off Day on the Internet and that was not changed after its publication or display

; However, programmatic advertising, i.e. using technology to automatically deliver digital ads online and on social media platforms, should not be conducted on Cooling-off Day and Polling Day.

e) Distribution or promotion of the sale of any book if the book was scheduled for publication independent of the election and the book is not sold at less than its commercial value;

f) The transmission of personal political views by individuals to other individuals, on a non-commercial basis, using the Internet, telephone or electronic means;

g) The wearing by candidates, of a badge indicating affiliation with a political party or replica of the symbol allotted to them.

Here, it is as clear as daylight that the transmission of personal political views can be carried out by individuals to other individuals, on a non-commercial basis, using the Internet, telephone or electronic means.

Which brings me to the most crucial question facing us, arising from the stupid lodgement of a police report by someone from the Election Dept, and the insane, thuggish actions of the police personnel who raided the homes of Roy and Soh Lung: Did Roy or Soh Lung commit a breach of the law vis-à-vis clause f] above? My answer is a huge, resounding NO.

If the clowns in the Election Dept and thugs in the SPF cannot read or understand the information posted in the Election Dept’s website, then they should be sacked from their positions. They should apologize to Roy and Soh Lung and pay financial compensation to both of them; any judge deciding on their case should fine the clowns and the thugs and perhaps add a jail sentence, for wrongly taking the law into their own hands and unnecessarily causing so much harassment and inconvenience to others. One month in jail for these clowns and thugs does not seem unduly harsh.

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