mrbrown to The Online Citizen: Surprise! You are now a political association!
Singapore's online community was abuzz with excitement after The Online Citizen (TOC), a popular group blog that discusses politics and current affairs, was told by the government it will be gazetted as a political association.
This means that they cannot accept donations from foreign sources, among other restrictions. For instance, they will also need to list the identities of its owners, editorial team and administrators.
Why being gazetted should be look on as an honor
I think TOC should feel proud about being given this honor. To be so influential that the ruling party thinks you are a potential shaper of opinions at the coming elections, and need to be gazetted, well, that's like getting a National Day Award!
Some of you might be thinking, perhaps it may be better to run a website that discusses politics anonymously in future. Or maybe the entire TOC team should just shut down the site and start a new one with secret identities.
I have some suggestions for new website names. How about:
1. The Unknown Citizen website
2. The Anonymous Citizen website
3. These Are Not The Online Citizens You Are Looking For website
And the writers and editors can give themselves pseudonyms too. Like, Chief Editor: Mr Giant Potatohead. Foreign Correspondent: Mr Suk Mai Kok. Political Desk: Miss Kant Sue Mi.
Then when the government sends them a letter to tell them to register themselves as a political association, the letter will read:
"Dear Editors of Feeling Oppressed Citizen website,
As a website that provides coverage and analysis of political issues, FOC (Feeling Oppressed Citizen) has the potential to influence the opinions of their readership and shape political outcomes in Singapore.
Hence, FOC has been gazetted to ensure that it is not funded by foreign elements or sources.
We hereby require Chief Editor Giant Potatohead, Foreign Correspondent Suk Mai Kok and Political Correspondent Kant Soo Mi to provide the identities of the site's owners, editorial team and administrators.
Mr Potatohead, Mr Kok and Miss Mi have 14 days to comply.
The Department of Gazetting"
It's all WikiLeak's fault!
May I also point out that "gazette" should not be mistaken for the word "garrote". They sound alike but garrote is to strangle someone with a cord or wire, a great way to silently kill someone off. "Gazette" is nothing like that.
However there are some drawbacks to operating a political website anonymously. It would make it hard for the government to recognize you for your great contributions to society.
I think there has been great concern about the online media's influence lately. With the WikiLeaks saga fresh in their minds, the government has warned that anyone caught leaking any official government documents in Singapore will be "dealt with firmly."
Even if you were just leaking what someone else leaked, all leakers will be prosecuted. So we need to mindful before we take a leak.
But what about the taxi uncles?
Frankly, I think the government should extend their gazetting to other entities. Taxi drivers, for instance, provide coverage and analysis of political issues, and have the potential to influence the opinions of their passengers and shape political outcomes in Singapore.
So taxi drivers should all be gazetted as political associations.
This may complicate their ability to be paid by foreigners taking their cabs but trust me, it is for the Greater Good of Singapore. We can't have people giving their opinions about politics here willy-nilly and influencing political outcomes.
Taxi drivers who pick up passengers in future will need to ask for proof of identity. If the passenger is not a local, the taxi driver needs to reject the passenger's money. One way around it would be for the foreign passenger to give the money to a citizen, who can then pay the taxi driver directly.
Another way is for the foreign passenger to become a citizen. This will then give the passenger the right to fund the taxi driver.
However, given the current political climate and the fact that the elections are coming, I recommend that foreign passengers apply for their citizenship or permanent residence after the elections. They will stand a better chance then.
I wish to add that becoming a political association will in no way restrict taxi drivers from their current practice of disappearing from the streets just before the midnight surcharge kicks in.
Oh, by the way, those opinionated old men at coffee shops had better watch out too. They could be next to be gazetted.