I’ve just been in Kuala Lumpur for a few days for some training in holistic security (very, very important), and also to attend New Naratif’s end-of-year party. If you were at REXKL last night, thank you so much for coming!
This is going to be the last issue of the weekly newsletter for the year, because I’m going to take the last weekend of the year off. But I’ve got some special issues lined up for Milo Peng Funders… 😘
Over the past week, I ran a little poll on Twitter, just to get some feedback. I know that some people would like to support my work, but don’t want to commit to a regular subscription, or perhaps US$5/US$50 is not just a feasible amount to be spending. That’s absolutely fine (the weekly newsletter will remain free!), but a majority of the people who participated in my Twitter poll said that they would go for a lower cost option that would allow them to express support without spending more. I was going to do a Patreon thing, but ultimately decided that Ko-fi would be more appropriate. So here goes: if you’d like to add a little something in the tip jar, head over to my Ko-fi page. Terima kasih!
‘Tis the season. The POFMA season, that is.
Given the amount I have written and spoken about POFMA this year, it seems only fitting that We, The Citizens sees out the year with this.
More POFMA orders have been issued: one to the Singapore Democratic Party, and another to People’s Voice leader Lim Tean. Both parties have complied with the order, although the SDP says that they will be seeking to get the direction overturned. Lim Tean has also blasted POFMA as “cry baby legislation” and says he is considering his legal options.
Things got a little meta, too, with the PAP government taking issue with the Washington Post’s coverage of POFMA, claiming that the paper was “perpetuating false allegations” because they didn’t publish the response by Singapore ambassador to the US in full. The ambassador, Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, had argued against parts of the article that said that POFMA could have a “chilling effect on online free expression” and “open the door to broad government censorship”. But it’s a ridiculous and embarrassing accusation from the PAP government, because WaPo is right: while they might not have used it yet, POFMA does grant government ministers the power to demand the removal or blocking of content, and the concern about a chilling effect has been repeatedly expressed since even before the bill was passed.
Our ambassador to the US isn’t the only diplomat who’s been busy. Foo Chi Hsia, the UK High Commissioner for Singapore, has also defended POFMA by responding to this article (paywall) in The Economist.
Ending with some happier news
Okay, I’m bluffing a little bit by sticking this link in here because it isn’t happy news by any measure, but here’s Michael Barr on Singapore’s anointed prime minister-in-waiting Heng Swee Keat.
After criticism, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung says that the practice of withholding PSLE result slips from students with unpaid school fees is going to be reviewed. Here’s hoping that they end this practice completely; kids shouldn’t be punished or humiliated in this way.
Three cheers to the students who have come forward to set up Students for a Safer NUS, a group to build up support for victims of sexual assault on campus through awareness-raising and education. This is such an important initiative and they deserve as much support as we all can give.
Over the past week we published this piece by Jintamas Saksornchai looking at conservative Buddhism in Thailand, the uproar over a series of “Ultraman Buddha” paintings, and debates about moving with the times and opening up space for diverse expression.
We also published this article by Olivia Sim looking at the need to go beyond just talking about fighting stigma when it comes mental health issues—it’s also a political issue, tied in with things like labour rights and gender justice.
You’ll notice that you’re able to access all our pieces through these links despite the fact that New Naratif has a paywall on our site. That’s because every New Naratif member has a unique URL that allows them to share articles with anyone they want, as many times as they want. It’s our way of balancing the need to remind people that such content needs to be paid for, while not barring anyone’s access to important information and research.