FICA Is Not A Stealth Coup Attempt By MHA, Says Shanmugam

The Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act, or FICA, was passed in Parliament following a debate that lasted 10 hours.

It allows ministries to go after foreign interference and those who seek to try to undermine domestic politics through help from overseas.

During a speech that lasted over 2 hours, Minister of Home Affairs K Shanmugam addressed FICA and why it is being passed.

 

At one point in the speech, Mr Shanmugam addressed a commentary that claimed FICA was an attempt at a stealth coup.

He rubbished the notion that there could be a coup in Singapore and noted that other laws like the Internal Security Act had more power to stage one.

Addressed New Naratif founders

During the speech which lasted over 2 hours, Shanmugam addressed the need for FICA.

At one point, he mentioned 2 activists — Thum Ping Tjin and Kirsten Han.

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Both of them had founded New Naratif in 2018, but their application to hold democracy classrooms was rejected by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority on account of foreign funding.

They had received funding from George Soros, who Shanmugam claims his Open Society Foundations interferes with internal politics in various countries.

Shanmugan said, “Make no mistake about it, we will say no to that in Singapore.”

He continued, “You can organise democracy classrooms, we have no issues. Anyone can organise, anyone can criticise the current state of democracy, but it cannot be funded by Soros, or the US Embassy, or any other embassy,”

New Naratif holds ‘democracy classrooms’ in Malaysia, with the funding of the US Embassy in Malaysia.

Rubbished notion of a stealth coup in Singapore

Mr Shanmugan also addressed a commentary that Dr Thum had posted on New Naratif, which you can view here.

It claimed that FICA was an attempt by Mr Shanmugam to launch a “stealth coup” in Singapore by giving himself, or the Minister of Home Affairs, power to do so.

Dr Thum described FICA, if passed, as theoretically being able to punish or restrict the rights of anyone if Mr Shanmugam so wishes:

In effect, this law would make Shanmugam—and any future heir to his office of minister for home affairs—the most powerful man in Singapore.

Mr Shanmugam directly addressed the claim in Parliament yesterday, cheekily emphasising the “stealth coup by me” bit.

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He said, “Basically, that I am personally going to take over Singapore, and all my colleagues have to be very concerned. And I suppose a coup means I take over from the Prime Minister.”

Dr Thum had noted in a tweet that “(Shanmugam’s) PAP colleagues should be very afraid”.

Mr Shanmugam, at least, didn’t think a coup would happen in Singapore. He quipped that PM Lee should be very concerned too.

“It requires a turn of mind, completely at odds with reality, and living in fantasy, to think of a coup in Singapore,” he noted.

Other laws have more power than FICA: Shanmugam

There are other laws more suitable for a coup, Mr Shanmugam noted. He cited the Internal Security Act as well as the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act.

They allow for detention without trial.

Fica, on the other hand, is a “toy gun”, he noted. It merely gives the power to give direction.

While that may still be a threat to any dissidents on suspicion of foreign collusion to undermine politics in Singapore, a coup appears far less likely.

“Members can see there is no limit to the absurdities and fantasies that some will put out. And an Oxford education in itself does not immunise one from spouting such nonsense,” Mr Shanmugam said.

FICA bill passed

After the 10-hour debate, the FICA bill was passed.

Mr Shanmugam has noted that FICA can only give the power of direction and not, for example, detain people without trial.

That can be done using the Internal Security Act.

So perhaps FICA isn’t an attempt at a stealth coup, despite its wide-ranging powers to give direction.

On the other hand, this is not to say that Mr Shanmugam is necessarily angling for a coup, but that the theoretical possibility exists for someone else to wield the power necessary to do so.

Checks and balances may well be necessary in that regard. But for now, it appears PM Lee can heave a sigh of relief that Shanmugam isn’t looking to stage a coup.

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Featured image adapted from Channel NewsAsia and New Naratif.