In my previous profile I spent a lot of time explaining the difference between a democracy and a republic, the difference between political mechanisms for changing government policies and mechanisms for replacing leaders. I’ve shilled very long and hard for preferring the former over the latter and I don’t intend to rehash those arguments here.

In this context, looking through Singapore’s Sedition Act, I kinda like how this distinction between authorities and their policies is maintained in that Act. Here are the relevant sections:

Seditious tendency

3.—(1) A seditious tendency is a tendency —
(a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the Government;
(b) to excite the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore to attempt to procure in Singapore, the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter as by law established;
(c) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Singapore;
(d) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore;
(e) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore.

(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), any act, speech, words, publication or other thing shall not be deemed to be seditious by reason only that it has a tendency —
(a) to show that the Government has been misled or mistaken in any of its measures;
(b) to point out errors or defects in the Government or the Constitution as by law established or in legislation or in the administration of justice with a view to the remedying of such errors or defects;
(c) to persuade the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore to attempt to procure by lawful means the alteration of any matter in Singapore; or
(d) to point out, with a view to their removal, any matters producing or having a tendency to produce feelings of ill-will and enmity between different races or classes of the population of Singapore,

if such act, speech, words, publication or other thing has not otherwise in fact a seditious tendency.

I like this very careful distinction between exciting contempt against authority figures and the authority itself while exempting critique of policies and laws itself. This is the distinction which is pretty much foundational to my preference for direct democracies and petitions over election systems for replacing leaders and authorities.

And the crime of sedition is defined as follows:

Offences
4.—(1) Any person who —
(a) does or attempts to do, or makes any preparation to do, or conspires with any person to do, any act which has or which would, if done, have a seditious tendency;
(b) utters any seditious words;
(c) prints, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distributes or reproduces any seditious publication; or
(d) imports any seditious publication,
shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction for a first offence to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to both, and, for a subsequent offence, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years; and any seditious publication found in the possession of that person or used in evidence at his trial shall be forfeited and may be destroyed or otherwise disposed of as the court directs.
(2) Any person who without lawful excuse has in his possession any seditious publication shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction for a first offence to a fine not exceeding $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 18 months or to both, and, for a subsequent offence, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years, and such publication shall be forfeited and may be destroyed or otherwise disposed of as the court directs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *