Refer Political Donations Act to select committee

May 19, 2000
Singapore Democrats

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The latest move by the Government to introduce the Political Donations Act comes as no surprise. For years the PAP has been coming up with all sorts of schemes and laws to make it increasingly difficult for the Opposition establish itself. First, there was the introduction of the GRC system. Then the PAP banned the SDP video and, thereafter, passed a law to prohibit political videos. Now the PAP wants to restrict anonymous donations from Singaporeans to opposition parties.

The SDP is not in support of political parties receiving funds from foreign sources. It is, however, also against the blurring of roles and resources of the Government and the PAP. For example, there have been newspaper reports that the PAP conducts interviews and has ‘tea sessions’ with potential candidates in the Istana. The Istana is Government property and the PAP has absolutely no right to conduct party interviews there. Will the PAP tell Singaporeans if Government resources have been used for such activities?

If the Government’s intention to introduce the Act is for the sake of transparency and accountability, it should not stop at donations to political parties and associations. It should also:

  • One, require all ministers and MPs as well as their spouses to declare their incomes and assets. This is the practice in many democratic countries.
  • Two, require all political parties to declare all sources of incomes and assets. Three, make information about the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation and Government Linked Companies readily available.

As for NGOs, many depend on international bodies for funding. By prohibiting organisations to receive financial support from beyond Singapore, the activities of civil society is effectively crushed. This exposes PAP’s rhetorical nonsense about wanting Singapore to become a global player. The power given to the Minister to decide whether an organisation is “political” or not opens up the entire process to abuse.

Questions about the spirit as well as the substance of the Act abound. If the PAP has any shred of democratic decency it should, at the very least, refer the Bill to a Select Committee. Political parties and NGOs should be allowed to make representations.

In the end, this Act is just another of the PAP’s ploys to thwart the progress of democracy in Singapore and to tighten its authoritarian grip.

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General