The bill, formally known as the Foreign Interference Countermeasures Act (FICA), was passed late Monday local time, with 75 members voting in favour, 11 opposition members objecting and 11 opposition members, local media reported. The two avoided.
Among the measures, FICA allows authorities to compel Internet and social media service providers as well as website operators to provide user information, block content, and remove applications.
Those deemed or designated as “politically important persons” under the law must comply with strict rules relating to donations and declare their ties with foreign entities.
Instead of a court, an independent tribunal – headed by a judge – will hear appeals against the minister’s decisions, a move the government says is necessary to protect national security.
The decisions of the Tribunal will be final.
The government said FICA does not cover those building foreign partnerships, soliciting foreign businesses, networking with foreigners, sourcing for charities or discussing policies or political matters that affect their businesses with foreign affiliates or business partners. Influence, or support a charity.
Home Minister K. “As long as they are done in an open and transparent manner, and are not part of an attempt to manipulate our political discourse or undermine public interest such as security,” Shanmugam said in Parliament.
It will also not affect Singaporeans expressing their views or engaging in advocacy. The home ministry has previously said it would not apply to foreign individuals or publications “reporting or commenting on Singaporean politics in an open, transparent and responsible manner.”
But some critics say its broad language risks capturing even legitimate activities, while rights group Reporters Without Borders said the law could trap independent media outlets.
Experts and Singapore’s opposition parties have called for reducing the scope of executive powers and greater oversight through the judiciary.
The bill was passed without “strengthening circumscribed checks and balances, especially judicial review”, said Eugene Tan, professor of law at Singapore Management University. “While assurances were given, they could have been given clear expression through legislative codification.”
Shanmugam, however, said the bill represents “the best balance … between dealing with risks and providing checks against misuse”.