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MHA reviewing FICA requirements after Red Dot United raises concerns

RDU’s chief, Ravi Philemon, criticized the recent requirement within the Foreign Interference Countermeasures Act (FICA) on Politically Significant Persons (PSPs).

PSPs are required to set up and declare a bank account for receiving donations under the FICA.

In a Facebook post, Philemon underscored the potential imposition of administrative and financial strain on party CEC members, given that donations are directed solely to the party’s account, not to the individuals.

Earlier, the party had expressed skepticism about FICA’s effectiveness in countering foreign influence.

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SINGAPORE: Ravi Philemon, the secretary-general of Red Dot United (RDU), recently expressed his dismay regarding the new stipulation in the Foreign Interference Countermeasures Act (FICA) affecting Politically Significant Persons (PSPs).

Following RDU’s recent inquiries, In a Facebook post on Friday (22 Dec), Mr Philemon mentioned that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is reviewing the requirement for PSPs who do not receive political donations.

PSPs are required to set up and declare a bank account for receiving donations under the FICA.

He underscored the potential imposition of administrative and financial strain on party CEC members, given that donations are directed solely to the party’s account, not to the individuals.

Mr Philemon revealed that the MHA had sent a circular on 11 Dec to all political parties, including RDU’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) members, outlining the legislation related to PSPs under FICA.

After gathering feedback from CEC members, RDU wrote to MHA on the very next day, highlighting, among other concerns, the mandate for PSPs to maintain dedicated bank accounts solely for political donations.

“We informed them that all our CEC members do not receive political donations, and any solicited donations are channelled only to RDU’s bank account.”

Expressing dismay at the new requirement, Mr Philemon voiced concerns about the administrative and potential financial burdens imposed on their CEC members.

He underscored the necessity for them to open bank accounts, necessitating a minimum deposit of S$500 and monthly service fees, despite not receiving any funds.

“They had to keep their bank accounts active despite receiving no monies into them, ” Mr Philemon added, highlighting the issues arising from this new requirement.

Mr Philemon also mentioned that RDU received a response from the MHA on 18 Dec, affirming no alterations to FICA’s new rules for RDU’s CEC members. The MHA notified them separately of their obligations.

“Although we found MHA’s reply unsatisfactory, we wrote to them, expressing our intention to try to comply with the new requirement for PSPs. ”

“We asked them to guide and advise us appropriately and promptly if we had any questions on how to comply.”

Mr Philemon noted that MHA is reassessing the need for PSPs not receiving political donations. Additionally, those PSPs who never have or anticipate receiving such donations won’t need a dedicated bank account until they receive such funds.

Mr Philemon refutes PAP’s allegations on opposition’s stand against foreign interference”

In his post, Mr Philemon refuted a recent article by the ruling party PAP, accusing the opposition of undermining the threat of foreign interference.

He criticized the article’s baseless claims, stating that it portrayed the opposition as opposing FICA for the sake of opposition or to generate division among Singaporeans, which he deemed untrue and misleading.

While acknowledging the significance of a bill targeting foreign interference, Mr Philemon reiterated that FICA fell short due to its swift enactment through a rapid legislative process.

He emphasized the lack of adequate stakeholder consultation and highlighted unanimous objections from all opposition MPs regarding its current form.

“As for RDU, accountability and transparency will be something that we will continue to champion as a responsible opposition party in Parliament.”

RDU challenges the government’s simplistic view of foreign influence money trail

In a recent statement issued on Thursday, RDU expressed profound concerns regarding the new provisions of the FICA.

They questioned the government’s assumption of a straightforward financial trail associated with foreign influence, emphasizing the complexities involved.

“We are concerned that the Government might be missing the woods for the trees with this new requirement for PSPs,” said Mr Philemon.

RDU pointed out that foreign interference in the political affairs of a nation is a multifaceted challenge, often involving covert operations, disinformation campaigns, and manipulation of various channels.

RDU also questioned the effectiveness of the FICA’s latest provision to prevent foreign interference and the practical implications on political parties.

“Malicious foreign agents are adept at executing sophisticated strategies that may circumvent or exploit such legislative measures,” added RDU.

For example, foreign agents may exploit decentralised financial systems, such as cryptocurrencies, to fund and support political activities, and they could also utilize intermediaries or third-party entities to funnel funds to political parties or individuals.

RDU expresses fear over FICA’s potential misuse given government’s history of suppressing dissent

In September 2021, upon FICA’s introduction in Parliament, RDU expressed concerns regarding the legislation, highlighting its potential to grant extensive powers to the Executive without sufficient checks and balances.

Citing the Government’s history of using laws like the Internal Security Act (ISA), Protection from Harassment Act (POHA), and Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) to target critics and dissenters, RDU feared that FICA could similarly be misused to silence opposition voices and Singaporeans criticizing the Government.

RDU advocated for the establishment of a Multi-Party Select Committee to conduct open hearings and engage in public consultations, aiming for a thorough debate and potential amendments to FICA before its enactment into law.

Observing the government’s arbitrary decisions concerning FICA, RDU emphasized the necessity for the broader consultation they had proposed.

“This need for accountability and transparency will be something that we will continue to champion as a responsible opposition party in Parliament.”

Civil society voices resounding critique against FICA

On 5 October 2021, FICA was passed in Parliament with 75 votes in favour, 11 against, and two Nominated MPs abstaining from voting.

Notably, all 10 MPs from the opposition Workers’ Party and Progress Singapore Party’s Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai voted against it. WP MPs advocated for amendments to the FICA Bill that would have addressed these concerns.

FICA faced criticism from various quarters, including academics, legal scholars, civil society activists, and numerous citizens.

The criticisms centred on several aspects, including the hurried passage of the Bill without formal consultation, the broad powers granted to the Minister based on suspicions, the “ouster” clause limiting judicial appeal against Ministerial decisions, the lack of transparency regarding the Minister’s actions under FICA, and the absence of countermeasures against foreign interference targeting Ministers and the Prime Minister.

This timing for the full implementation of FICA appears apt, especially with mounting anticipation surrounding a highly likely early General Election in 2024 following PM Lee Hsien Loong‘s intention to pass on leadership responsibilities to Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong before the upcoming GE and PAP’s 70th anniversary next year.

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MHA goons do not even reveal Stats to Oppo MP, wants so much of info on donations.
What, after all these Billions & Millions of dollars Corruption & Laundering.
They think someone is Going to Bank in Money for a Change in PAP government is it????
Please tell them. People Are Going To Vote PAP Out, next GE.
Arrgh ps: provided they give me extra money, not small amount ok.

So, the pappies logic is:
1) Money trail for PSPs and Oppies amounting to tens or hundreds $100’s is a BIG issue.
2) Money trail for HNWIs laundering money to tune of billion$ is not an issue, in fact use as criteria to grant PR or WP status. (Unless until some FOREIGN party kknb has to complain).

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It is specific in curtailing funds for opposition in Singapore. Under the umbrella of protecting the nation from foreign influence. People here are wary in helping opposition as evidenced with the AHTC issue that no company wants to provide services for the opposition held Town Councils. The PAP uses many tools to help themselves. This one of many. It is not for the sake of the Nation or people. As for people, they have already started to import hundreds of thousands… also under the pretext that we need to have talented people to be competitive. The citizens have to be… Read more »

no point complaining. 70% prefer pineapple king. tsk tsk tsk

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