Today, after being introduced a couple of weeks ago into Parliament, the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act passed. Also known as FICA, the bill gives broad, sweeping powers to the Government to curtail acts that have been deemed to have foreign influence.
In fact, Netizens have been trying to rally around it (in opposition), with even a website up to say why the bill is a bad, bad thing.
While the bill itself seems to have existed in some form or another for years, it’s only in recent weeks that it’s been kicked into overdrive.
Some Netizens suspect that The Online Citizen (an antigovernmental website which has since been forced to shutter) was the spark that set the whole forest on fire.
Their refusal to comply with requests to disclose their funding probably set off all sorts of red flags somewhere. Couple that with their previous inclination to spread fake news (they were POFMA’ed by the MHA) and you can see why the government might wanted FICA to go through ASAP.
You just know that’s not going to sit well with some people right?
It certainly didn’t.
Almost immediately after the news that the bill was passed, those opposed to it came out of the woodwork to denounce FICA.
Most of those opposed to FICA (at least those that post on Facebook pages), seem to care more about the debate that preluded its passing than the bill itself.
The debate, which lasted into the night, had politicians from all the parties present their case on why FICA should pass or die on the floor.
Weird, some commenters have chose this hill to make a stand on.
A lot of them seem to be hung up on the fact that the debate was mostly ‘wayang’ (just for show), as the opposition parties (who are the only group of politicians against it) wasn’t going to be able to stop it going through no matter what.
They just don’t have the numbers…and like it or not, none of the PAP ministers are inclined to commit political suicide by going against the party.
Needless to say, when there’s a strong oppositional voice, there’s a strong voice for FICA as well.
In a twist, those for FICA are asking a singular question of the opposition; why are they against foreigners working in Singapore but oppose FICA?
It’s a bit tenuous to tie FICA and CECA (and foreign workers) but somehow, it’s still one of things that proponents of FICA are adamant that the opposition to the bill answer.
Personally, while I’m still on the fence about FICA, I do support the bill in some aspects.
I’ve always advocated for online responsibility and I’ve personally witnessed a ton of troll accounts. I honestly suspect that a couple are actually foreign actors trying to meddle in Singapore’s affairs.
In that regard, FICA should hopefully be effective in taking them out.
That’s something a couple of Netizens agree on too.
Despite that, it seems like the majority of those that are against FICA are against it because of the PAP.
They claim that the K. Shanmugam (the face of FICA and Minister for Home Affairs) is talking the talk, but not walking the walk. Their latest complaint stems from the minister’s claims of transparency when it comes to how FICA will be invoked.
While perhaps valid, their criticism doesn’t have any bearing on FICA itself. Instead, they wonder how it’ll be utilized as they alleged that the government hasn’t itself been as transparent in their operations as they claimed.
Whether that fear will be realized or not, only time will tell. Like it or not though, FICA is now here to stay.