Andrew Loh: It is terrible that the government is now trying to hijack the Poha for its own political agenda
At the very beginning of the Second Reading of the Protection from Harassment Act (PHA) Bill in 2014, the Minister of Law, K Shanmugam, provided a “CONTEXT” in which the government was introducing the new law.
These were the minister’s very first words in the speech:
“Let me start with the social context we have today which has led to this Bill.”
This is very important and I suspect this was why the Court of Appeal rejected Mindef’s claims.
You should read these short paragraphs – for they clearly, in the minister’s own words, show who the PHA was meant to protect.
To summarise, the minister cited and referred to the following:
- Sexual harassment
- Stalking conduct
- Baby of a blogger (who was harassed online)
- Doctor (who was harassed online)
The minister’s words, referring to emails received from members about the Bill:
- “Majority of them are women, recounting their personal experiences and welcoming the Bill.”
- “One writer described her harrowing experience with a fellow colleague.”
- “Another writer feared for her safety as her employer, who was the harasser, had a violent temper.”
- “A third writer told us that she was a victim of harassment and stalking from about 5 years ago and that her life has never been the same since. She continues to be traumatised until today.”
The instances the minister referred to:
- “Bullying among our youths…”
- “Our children are particularly vulnerable to cyber risks.”
- “In schools we are familiar with the kinds of bullying that take place – name-calling, inappropriate jokes, intimidating behaviour, and the like.”
- “Harassment of ex-girlfriends”
- “The Institute of Policy Studies organised a conference in November last year. It was attended by legal professionals, educators, social workers and civic groups, including NGOs like AWARE. It gave us a good sense of what professionals actively dealing with the issues thought. This was in addition to the survey which showed that 85 % of the public wanted tougher legislation to deal with harassment.”
It is patently clear that the PHA was NEVER meant to protect the government, or govt-linked institutions or even corporate companies.
Otherwise, why did the Law Minister – himself a Senior Counsel well versed in the law – not squeak a single word about this in the entire debate in Parliament?
Could be that he…… forgot to do so?
The PHA, as I’ve said, is a good and necessary protection for the vulnerable who may not have recourse to any other legislation.
But it is terrible that the govt is now trying to hijack it for its own political agenda – to protect itself from criticism, despite the fact that it is probably the most powerful entity in the land with unlimited resources to put its views across to the public.
Let’s not be lulled into the falsehood that this is about falsehoods, as claimed by the Ministry of Law.
*Facebook post by Andrew Loh.