MHA Clarifies Purpose of FICA After Singaporean Academics Overreact and Accuse it of being Oppressive

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Following claims by several Singaporean academics including Cherian George, Chong Ja Lan, Linda Lim, and Teo You Yenn, who claimed that the new Foreign Interference Countermeasures Act (FICA) will severely restrict academic activities by turning it into a “legal minefield”, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) have issued a statement to once again clarify the purpose of FICA.

The MHA states without qualification that FICA will not affect the following activities, which these Singaporean academics claim would be threatened:

  • Presenting of research at overseas conferences
  • Writing for international journals and multi-author book projects
  • Publishing in and reviewing for prestigious academic presses
  • Participating in international collaborative research projects
  • Partaking of fellowships, visiting appointments, and training programmes
  • Participation in international funding opportunities

The fact of the matter is, FICA or any law in Singapore for that matter, is not designed to hinder any academic or professor, who are able to get their articles accepted in international journals, books published by prestigious academic presses overseas, or if they receive splendid fellowships and awards from any foreign university.

MHA also clarified that the following examples cited by the Singaporean academics as being involved in “foreign collaborations and online dissemination”:

  • A PhD student who challenges “the criminalization of gay sex” in an online cultural studies journal published by a research centre based at Osaka University.
  • A journal article in Asia Bioethic Review spotlighting the “multiple barriers to access to healthcare faced by migrant workers in Singapore”. One of the co-authors is employed by a university overseas.
  • A political scientist on a webinar sponsored by the University of Sydney speaking about “current political issues in Singapore”.

FICA has no basis to be applied in any of the above examples cited by the Singaporean academics, unless the Singaporean academic in each of the examples were acting on behalf of a foreign agency to conduct a hostile information campaign online directed against Singapore’s public interest e.g. “To sow discord and unrest among Singaporeans”.

Granted that Singaporean universities such as NUS and NTU enjoy “stratospheric positions in international league tables”, this would not have been possible, if the Singapore Government were as oppressive and authoritarian as suggested by the Singaporean academics.

Furthermore, while the same Singaporean academics (most notably Cherian George and others), had raised concerns when the POFMA was first passed, there has not been any academic paper that has been curtailed by POFMA. Singaporean academics retain the freedom to pursue any research they wish on any subject, and that POFMA has not affected the international rankings of Singaporean universities.

The MHA is certain that the FICA will not affect academic freedom in Singapore, as it is specifically designed to combat hostile foreign interference.

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