Mr Heng, how to trust Govt when your agency is going after S’poreans?

At the annual dinner of the Economic Society of Singapore held in Mandarin Orchard Hotel last week (6 Aug), Education Minister Heng Swee Keat gave a speech called “The Singapore Economy: Confronting Challenges Anew”.

In his speech, Mr Heng talked about trust between the government and the people.

He said, “The one key ingredient that holds everything together is trust. One of our OSC findings is that Singaporeans want to contribute towards building our common future. This is heartening.”

“The next step is how we strengthen trust and accountability between the Government and fellow Singaporeans, and how we promote mutual understanding among Singaporeans in an increasingly diverse Singapore.”

Mr Heng added, “There must be implicit mutual trust between the public and its leaders and government, and the inclination for the public to support each other as a community and make personal sacrifices for the mutual good.”

“The OSC is part of the process of building adaptive capacity, allowing Singaporeans to engage one another on issues close to our hearts, see how the perfect solution may not suit another, and learn to compromise so as to shape the Singapore they hope to see in the future. The OSC process is critical in building trust.”

It is true that OSC can help to build trust between the government and the people with more communication and engagement. But on the other hand, trust cannot be gained if government agencies continue to sue Singaporeans for defamation just because they use the “wrong language”. After all, the ordinary Singaporeans are not legally trained.

In fact, in the first case of its kind in Singapore, a 21-year-old Singaporean, Han Hui Hui, has applied to the High Court for a declaration that the Council for Private Education (CPE), a statutory body under the Ministry of Education (MOE), is not entitled to bring any defamation action against her (‘Blogger files High Court application challenging statutory board’s legitimacy to sue for defamation‘).

Her counsel, M Ravi, is arguing that the freedom of speech and expression, enshrined in Article 14 of the Singapore Constitution, protects citizens from any defamation proceedings by the government and public bodies. The right to sue for defamation is reserved for individuals and private entities, and does not extend to public bodies.

The CPE had threatened Ms Han with defamation proceedings by way of letter of demand through their lawyers, following 2 emails they received from Ms Han, which they regarded as defamatory.

Who dares to communicate with government agencies anymore since putting things the wrong way can invite a defamation lawsuit?

How to trust the government with lawyer’s letters flying around, Mr Heng?

Related: A netizen’s defamation battle with stat board CPE