The Labor Party (WP) Raeesah Khan is being investigated by the police in Singapore for social media posts about race and religion.
On July 4th and 5th, two police reports against Raeesah submitted by members of the public were submitted after their posts went viral.
In a public statement, the Singapore police said that "a violation of the promotion of hostility between different groups on the grounds of religion or race is detected under Section 298A of the Criminal Code". The police investigation is ongoing.
With the support of the WP, Raeesah publicly apologized on Sunday, declaring that "(her) intention was never to create social division, but to raise awareness of (minority) concerns."
However, this did not stop the storm on social media.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and the ruling People & # 39; s Action Party (PAP) have been accused of disrupting racial and religious harmony as reprisals from members of the public.
The truth is that Raeesah's exposé is not just the product of political conflict or polarization. It is also the result of outdated, broken legislation.
How Raeesah's silence sparked a blaze of fire
In May, Pro-PAP Facebook pages leaked Raeesah's social media content, accusing her of "enforcing segregation". The two contributions listed below were the first triggers for the media hype.
Raeesah had criticized the discriminatory enforcement of regulations on the social distancing of migrant workers and ethnic minorities. Another contribution expressed his sympathy for under-represented “brown women” in politics.
Photo credit: Singapore Matters
Raeesah responded sympathetically to a member of the public who claimed WP's Kenneth Foo Seck Guan made insensitive comments about race and language.
She also claimed that Singaporean courts were bribed to mildly condemn church leaders after embezzling more than $ 50 million in donations.
Differences in the way mosque leaders were "harassed" and racial minorities were disproportionately detained in the prison system were highlighted.
Photo credit: Gong Simi Singapore
Some of the initial criticisms of Raeesah were the result of a pro-PAP smear campaign designed to “avenge” Ivan Lim. The ex-PAP candidate had to withdraw from the election after a smear campaign was run online last week.
Many who are offended by Raeesah's post believe that their unfounded allusions to social divisions in Singapore have had the potential to disrupt racial and religious harmony.
Mercilessly locking up minorities? You mean there are no other races in prison? Harass mosque leaders? Is it (okay) for mosque leaders to make extremist statements that belittle other religions? The Church leaders went free? They were all locked up, do you remember?
– Gong Simi Singapore
Raeesah supporters have resisted hatred of the opposition member and flooded social media with support – the hashtag #IstandwithRaeesah is now trendy online.
Racial and religious divisions are seen as a social reality and not as an unfounded claim worthy of criminalization. Article 298A was denounced as an instrument of injustice and restriction of freedom of expression:
You are not only exposed to daily micro-attacks that significantly alleviate the severity of your oppression. Often your anger at this injustice can also be directed against you, most dangerously through the use of instruments that are supposed to protect you.
– Hazirah Mohamad on Facebook
Internet users have also clarified the context behind Raeesah's posts.
Low-skilled migrant workers were deported during the breaker, while high-paying expats received a slap in the face after violating the law on social distance.
In addition, women from ethnic minorities are heavily underrepresented in parliament. Raeesah's allegations that City Harvest leaders bribed their way out of court reflected the online conspiracies and concerns that their punishments were overtly mild.
Are you reporting me? I'll get back to you
The feeding frenzy over Raeesah has led to trolling, doxing and repression reports of 298A violations. Racist statements by PAP politicians who have remained free of law enforcement circulate online.
Photo credit: Reddit Singapore
Citizens have made it their business to report abusive politicians for violations of 298A.
In 2019, TODAY reported on Heng's statement that the older generation of Singaporeans was not ready for a minority prime minister during a dialogue at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
A police report was subsequently submitted to the public on July 5 by an anonymous member. Mr. Heng's statements were said to be "socially divisive" and made them feel "insecure".
On July 6, another police report was filed against the PAP in response to a blog post that was posted on its official website.
The report said the PAP wrongly accused Raeesah of "making highly derogatory statements about Chinese and Christians," promoting "false narratives that Singaporeans are more likely to divide than unite."
The failure of 298A
What started as a smear campaign became a police case when 298A was armed against Raeesah to win the election.
The Singapore Penal Code contains laws that excessively restrict and restrict civil liberties and freedom of expression.
However, laws such as 298A, the Sedition Act and the Internal Security Act are easy to abuse.
298A is a legal double standard
According to 298A, people who are found guilty of knowingly promoting or promoting "disharmony or feelings of hostility, hatred or bad will between different religious or racial groups" can be fined up to three years and / or to be imprisoned.
Any act charged under 298A is a criminal offense. This is in stark contrast to “gentler” laws such as the Law for Maintaining Religious Harmony (MRHA).
As part of the MRHA, offenders receive restraining orders (ROs) and are only charged as criminals if they violate the RO.
In addition, criminals can repatriate through government-issued Community Remedial Initiatives (CRI).
It's worth asking why the Singapore Penal Code contains two levels of legislation: 298A and MRHA contain very different penalties for the same crime.
Even more pertinent is the question of why Raeesha, unlike the MRHA under 298A, is charged as a criminal.
298A is a broken alarm
Anyone can file a violation of 298A under the Singapore Penal Code, which allows individuals to file complaints from the magistrate about alleged offenses.
It becomes a case of "he said she said" in which feelings of insult are sufficient motivation for criminal charges.
There seems to be no limit to the number of reports that can be filed against a person.
In the 2015 anti-political exile Amos Yee, at least 20 police reports were released by civilians. Amos was indicted under 298A and was an adult in criminal proceedings.
There are some failafes against false reports. Persons who provide the court with misinformation can be fined and / or imprisoned for up to two years in accordance with Article 203A of the Criminal Code.
Despite the threat of reprisals, there were reports of violations of 298A that wasted public resources and valuable SPF man hours during the Raeesah Khan debacle.
298A is bad legislation
298A (a) states that who –
by spoken or written words or by signs or by visual representations or otherwise, which knowingly promote or attempt to promote disharmony or feelings of hostility, hatred or bad will between different religious or racial groups for reasons of religion or race
– Criminal Code, Singapore
– is to be brought before a court.
However, this legislation is incredibly vague.
First, it is unclear how to determine whether feelings of "hostility, hatred, or evil will" have been created. Feelings are very subjective and cannot be observed. Only physical manifestations of feelings such as violence can be recorded.
Second, "spoken or written" words that can cause racist and religious differences are interpreted. The lack of a definition means that it can be said that almost every type of speech has caused racial and religious hostility.
This poorly defined legislation led to a flood of police cases against politicians like Raeesah and Heng Swee Keat, political parties like the PAP, and civilians like Amos Yee.
Do you stand with Raeesah?
Photo credit: @ nasuhadarke / Instagram
The point is that the immediate response to Raeesah's accusations was to silence her and not to debate with her.
Instead of looking for information to verify the truth about what Raseeah posted online, the sites that triggered the media hype decided to name and shame it.
It was about tearing down a public figure rather than examining what was really important: the extent of racial and religious inequality in Singapore and the crux of the issue.
Instead of proving that there was no racial and religious inequality, the public assumed that this was not the case and jumped on the Flame Raeesah train, ironically making the same mistake they had accused her of.
It was more about ego and gaining an argument than discussing a social problem.
This incident is evidence that Singapore's socio-political culture still has a long way to go in Singapore.
Selected image source: Workers & # 39; Party on Facebook
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