Mindef Isn’t Human
#QOTD no longer stands for quote of the day but question of the day. So, #QOTD: What is considered a human being? Well, apparently not the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).
The Court of Appeal ruled on Monday (Jan 16) that Mindef cannot invoke the anti-harrassment law against The Online Citizen, as Mindef is not a human being.
What’s going on?
In case you’re lost in all this legal talk, here’s a quick overview of how it all started.
- In 2011, MobileStats Technologies, owned by Dr Ting Choon Meng, sued Mindef for infringing its patent. This was because Mindef bought a mobile battalion casualty station (BCS) that supposedly infringed the patent of MobileStats Technologies’ Station With Immediate First-Aid Treatment (Swift) vehicle.
Mindef’s BCS. Source
MobileStat’s Swift. Source
- Due to high legal costs, Dr Ting dropped the case in January 2014.
- According to a note on Mindef’s cyberpioneer Facebook page, the “case was actually a commercial dispute between MobileStats Technologies and Syntech Engineers, which supplied the mobile BCS to Mindef”, i.e. — Mindef was merely the consumer, it said.
- Mindef’s Facebook note also stated that the court had ruled that the MobileStats’ patent for the BCS was invalid, and revoked it.
- In January 2015, The Online Citizen posted an interview with Dr Ting, where he made allegations against Mindef. Mindef sued the website and Dr Ting, invoking Section 15 of the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA)
- According to Today, a district court granted the order but on Jan 16, that was overturned by the High Court, which ruled that the government cannot be considered a person. Thus, Mindef cannot invoke POHA.
What’s The POHA?
According to Singapore Statuses Online, the official website for Singapore’s legislation, here is the debated act:
Basically, not only does it protect people from being harassed, it also protects them against wrongful statements.
You’re Not The Only One Confused
While the court has clearly righted the wrongs in this case, Mindef doesn’t seem satisfied.
But hey, Mindef is a government agency, you would think one online article, which has already been judged to contain false allegations, would be just water off its back, right?
Here are some words of wisdom from the judges, as reported by Channel NewsAsia:
“Mindef was anything but a helpless victim… It is a Government agency possessed of significant resources and access to media channels.”
The judges added that Mindef conveyed its side of the story through both traditional and online media, and that The Online Citizen included Mindef’s statement and the link to that statement in the portal’s article.
“Given all this, it is difficult to see what discernible impact the allegations and The Online Citizen’s publication of the allegations could have had on Mindef’s reputation or public image,” said the two judges’ ruling.
Now that it’s been ruled that Mindef is definitely not a person, we hope this ignominious chapter can be closed and all parties can move on.
Featured Image from sites.psu.edu