After three months of foot-dragging, the Ministry for Information, Communication and the Arts (MICA) has finally given the Singapore Democrats the licence to publish our newspaper. The Ministry did not give any reason for the inexplicable delay.
The SDP had submitted our application to the MICA’s Media Development Authority (MDA) for renewal of the licence earlier this year in April (these permits have to be renewed on an annual basis). According to MDA officials, applications normally take two to three weeks to process. The SDP’s took more than three months. The approval finally came last week.
Party leaders had repeatedly emailed and called the Media Development Authority (MDA) in past weeks and were told that the application was with Minister Lui Tuck Yew. The MDA added that they did not know why the application was held up.
We then wrote to Mr Lui and demanded that he either approve or reject our application which would allow us to take the necessary follow-up action (see here and here). It was only after our repeated calls and demands that the MICA finally relented and gave us the permit.
The delay has severely disrupted our campaign plans. The New Democrat is our communication lifeline with voters in the constituencies and a means for the party to raise funds.
The latest issue contained news about our 30th anniversary celebrations as well as our views on a host of issues such as the high cost of living in Singapore, foreign workers, and HDB prices.
This is the first time that an application has been delayed for such a long time. Is the PAP Government nervous about our communicating with residents and voters? Past issues have sold extremely well even in PAP strongholds such as the Ang Mo Kio GRC where Mr Lee Hsien Loong is the MP.
It is highly inappropriate for our application to be decided, much less held up, by a cabinet minister. There is a set of procedural guidelines to determining whether to grant or reject a newspaper permit application. Civil servants in the MDA should process the SDP’s application like all other applications – in an impartial manner – instead of handing it over to a PAP minister.
In other democratic countries where there is the rule of law, the press would have reported the story and the ombudsman would have stepped in. No minister would have been allowed to withold a newspaper licence for three months. (In fact, political parties would not have to apply for a newspaper permit in the first place).
In Singapore, however, everything was silent – including the Singapore Press Holdings.
The Singapore Democrats want an answer from Minister Lui on why our licence was witheld for such a long time.
Mr Lui Tuck Yew
Ministry for Information, Communication and the Arts
140 Hill Street
#02-02 MICA Building,
Re: The New Democrat
We have finally received the approval for our application to publish The New Democrat – after a delay of more than three months.
It is hard to imagine how the renewal of our newspaper licence can take such a long time. As we have noted in our previous emails to you, MDA officials indicated that such applications take only a couple of weeks to process and that it was you who was sitting on our application.
The delay has caused us substantial difficulties. Given the fact that elections will have to be called in the not-too-distant future, you will agree that such a disruption to our communication efforts with voters is most unfair.
We have the right to know what was holding up our licence.
Two, we want to know what the proper procedure and guidelines for processing such applications are.
Three, under what statute did you rely on to delay our application?
Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party