Apr/May 2011 (General Elections): A year before elections, PM Lee Hsien Loong announced a "24-hour cooling-off" before polling day, stating that no election campaigning and "advertising" will be allowed except for "news" from government licensed organizations and sanctioned political party broadcasts.
In its annual budget statement, the Government announces a $3.2 billion "Grow and Share" package in which most adult Singaporean will receive between $600 to $800 each in "cash incentives".
In its first major revision since 2001, the Government redraws electoral boundaries by dissolving constituencies and creating new wards. The Group Representative Constituency (GRC) of Aljunied loses nine parcels of land to neighbouring wards, prompting accusations of gerrymandering from the Workers' Party.
The Elections Department eases the ban on election videos and online campaigning, but requires that all activities to be held at the Speakers' Corner during the election period be sanctioned by the police.
State-owned broadcaster MediaCorp airs an unprecedented four-episode TV forum featuring both PAP and opposition politicians. A directive circulated to the invited parties states that the PAP be represented by two speakers and be allocated half the airtime, and that only eligible candidates can take part, thus ruling out Dr Chee Soon Juan, the bankrupted leader of the SDP.
The Government announces elections 18 days prior to polling day, and campaigning period are again restricted to 9 days. Despite elections deposits being raised from $13,500 to $16,000, opposition parties field candidates in 82 out of 87 seats, making it the highest proportion of contested seats since independence.
Early attempts by the PAP to question the personal agendas of some opposition candidates, including one allegedly gay member of the SDP, are eventually sidelined by more pressing economic issues such as rising costs of living. Nightly rallies by the opposition attract tens of thousands of spectators, with the Workers' Party filling out sports stadiums. Traditional news reporting is challenged by a surge of dissenting views on social media platforms such as Facebook, as news websites The Online Citizen and Temasek Review also report record hits.
Three days before polling, PM Lee Hsien Loong issues an apology to the electorate, pledging to correct the shortcomings of unpopular policies. The hustings is also notable for the absence of defamation suits.
The PAP eventually wins 60.1% of the votes by securing 81 out 87 seats, and lost the five-member Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) to the Workers' Party, which secures six seats in Parliament, the best opposition parliamentary result since independence.
May 2011 : A week after elections, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong announce their retirement from the cabinet. In a brief joint statement, the two former prime ministers note that "the time has come for a younger generation to carry Singapore forward in a more difficult and complex situation."
May 2011 : Authorities arrest a 24-year-old man after he allegedly posted on an internet forum that a fighter jet had crashed, resulting in many casualties. In a statement, the police say that he is being investigated under Section 45 of the Telecommunications Act, which states that any person who is found guilty of transmitting a false or fabricated message is liable to be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years, or a fine, or with both.
May 2011 : British author Alan Shadrake begins his prison term after he lost an appeal against a six-week jail sentence, the highest ever imposed for contempt of court. His inability to pay a $20,000 fine results in an additional two-week imprisonment, taking his term to eight weeks in total. "I feel that Singapore has shamed itself again by jailing me," says Shadrake in a newswire report.
June 2011 : 'Mass Effect', a Microsoft video game which contains a scene showing a human woman and an alien woman kissing each other, is banned by the Media Development Authority. The Straits Times reports that Singapore is the only country to have banned the game.
July 2011 : The organiser of a picnic in Speakers' Corner to display solidarity with anti-government demonstrations in Malaysia is called up by the police, who say they take a "serious view of foreigners who import their domestic political conflicts into Singapore, and of foreigners who use Singapore as a stage for such political agitation". The Straits Times reports that about 120 people, clad in yellow, had sat on the grass in small groups for two hours or so.
July 2011 : US lawyer Gopalan Nair receives a life-time ban from practising law in Singapore after the Court of Three Judges rule in favour of an application by the Law Society that Nair had scandalised the courts. Nair responds on his blog from the US that the ban is an "honour" and he's "none the worse for it".
Sept 2011 : Within 24 hours following an announcement by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to abolish his country's Internal Security Act, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a press release to defend the use of the ISA in Singapore, stating that it "continues to be relevant and crucial as a measure of last resort for the preservation" of national security. In response, opposition groups and bloggers called on the government to abolish the Act, including an unprecedented letter signed by 16 former ISA detainees alleging the use of torture to extract confessions. The Ministry rejects the calls, and avoids addressing the issue of ill-treatment.
Sept 2011 : In a separate statement following Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Raza's announcement that his country's press laws would be relaxed, the Singapore Government says that the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act is still valid, as it ensures that the media play "a responsible role and that publishers are accountable for the content they print."
Oct 2011 : In an address to Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean says that the ISA is still relevant and that the Government has used it on "good faith" and as a "last resort." Teo says replacing the Act with an anti-terror law would be inadequate, as it is the Government, and not the judiciary, who will be responsible for decisions affecting national security. Teo also reveals that in the decade of the 1970s, the Government had arrested over 800 people under the ISA, of whom 235 were issued with Orders of Detention.
Oct 2011 : Police commence investigation against the Singapore Democratic Party after it organised a public forum featuring former ISA detainees Francis Seow and Tang Fong Har speaking via teleconference from overseas. In response to media queries, the police say that the forum organisers had arranged for "a fugitive from justice" and "a foreign national" to participate in a discussion on domestic politics.
Oct 2011 : Another political forum is under investigation by the police, who allege that the talk could have violated the Public Order Act by featuring two foreign speakers. Singaporeans For Democracy says that its member Martyn See had spent 90 minutes in the police station fielding questions on whether the talk was a public or private event. The two foreigners who spoke were elected opposition Members of Parliament of Malaysia and Cambodia.
Oct 2011 : Police say they had released on bail a man linked to political website Temasek Review for an alleged violation of the Parliamentary Elections Act. Dr Joseph Ong Chor Teck was arrested in September after Temasek Review's facebook page had allegedly carried an exit poll during the General Elections in May. If convicted, he can be fined up to $1,500 or jailed for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both.
Dec 2011 : An application by political association Singaporeans For Democracy to conduct a "Singaporeans United Against Racism" rally in Speakers' Corner is rejected by the police, who say that "issues of race and religion are sensitive and may cause friction across different racial and religious groups."
Jan 2011 : In response to an annual report by Human Rights Watch criticising the government's record on civil rights and freedom of expression, a statement from the Ministry of Law retorts that the report had made "false allegations", and adds that elections in Singapore "are free and fair" and the "Constitution guarantees the freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly."
Feb 2012 : In the country's first industrial action in over 30 years, online news portal TOC reported that about 200 foreign workers had gone on strike at a public housing construction site over unpaid wages, prompting intervention by police and officers from the Ministry of Manpower. In the Straits Times report on the next day, the daily opted to use the term "protest" in place of "strike", and says that the wage dispute has been resolved. No arrests are reported.
Feb 2012 : In a first legal action undetaken by a politician against online media contributors, Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam issues a lawyer's letter to blogger Alex Au, asking him to remove from his website an allegedly defamatory comment that referred to "widely-known rumours" about the Minister's private life. In his post, Au had criticised the mainstream media's treatment of opposition MP Yaw Shin Leong and his alleged extramarital affair. Au proceeds to remove the comment, saying that he took the Minister's word on the matter.
Feb 2012 : Days after political website Temasek Review Emeritus (TRE) revealed Mr Richard Wan as of one of its editors, lawyers acting for PM Lee Hsien Loong issues him a five-page letter, demanding that the website remove an opinion piece that contained comments which had alleged "nepotistic motives" in the appointment of Lee's wife as head of sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings. After retracting the article, Wan publishes an apology on the website, and urges TRE readers to refrain from making similar comments.
Feb 2012 : In quick succession, lawyers acting for Mr Lee Hsien Yang, the younger brother of the Prime Minister and head of Singapore's Civil Aviation Authority, issues a letter to Richard Wan, demanding that TRE removes and apologises for a comment posted by a reader which were allegedly defamatory. Despite an initial retort by TRE that apologising for every defamatory comment from readers would make it difficult to run the website, Wan relents and publishes an apology.
Mar 2012 : After a day-long trial, an unemployed man is fined a total of $8,500 after he was found guilty of posting two documents on the internet which the judge ruled to contain incitement to violence. In the first conviction of it kind, 36-year-old Gary Yue Mun Yew is fined $6,000 for posting a link to a video clip depicting an assassination with a comment that a live version of it should be re-enacted "on our own grand-stand during our national's parade!!!!!". A further $2,500 fine is imposed for posting on his own Facebook page a doctored Pulitzer prize winning photograph.
Apr 2012 : Police denies an application by a migrant workers rights group HOME for a permit to march on Labour Day. Organisers said the "walk" had been planned for migrant workers and locals to walk together with t-shirts bearing the words "Walk with workers: Upholding the dignity of labour".
Apr 2012 : Acclaimed British film Shame is banned after its director Steve McQueen refused to comply with the censors' demand to trim a group sex scene. In a statement, a government spokesperson says that "we are of the view that the prolonged and explicit threesome sex sequence has exceeded our classification guidelines."
Apr 2012 : Dr Chee Soon Juan's application to travel to Norway to speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum is rejected by the government's bankruptcy office, who rules that Chee has made no contribution to libel damages awarded to Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong. Chee says the government has rejected over 30 travel applications he has made in the past. In a letter of appeal, the New York-based Human Rights Foundation says that the "Singaporean government's major convictions of Dr. Chee violate international law, and enforcing a travel ban on him further enforces this violation."
May 2012 : Robert Amsterdam, a Canadian human rights lawyer representing the Singapore Democratic Party and its leader Dr Chee Soon Juan, is denied entry to Singapore, thereby infringing his client's right of access to his lawyer. No reason is given for the refusal of his entry.
June 2012 : Members of Singaporeans For Democracy (SFD) approve a motion to dissolve the organization as a society registered with Registrar of Society. SFD’s membership chose to dissolve the society to draw attention to "the constraint of irrelevant laws" that hindered its work as a political advocacy group in Singapore. The group had faced two police investigations during its existence.
July 2012 : Students at the new Yale-NUS school won't be allowed to organize political protests on campus, says Pericles Lewis, the college's new president. The venture has come under sharp criticism from Yale professors and rights advocates who say the Connecticut-based school's mission as a haven for free thought and expression is incompatible with Singapore's tightly controlled political system.
July 2012 : The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) denies any link between the politically charged academic publications of NUS Law Faculty’s Associate Professor Tey Tsun Hang and the prosecution against him for corruption for allegedly sleeping with law student Darinne Ko in return for improving her grades. Prof Tey has published articles and a book containing sharp critiques of the Singapore legal system.
Aug 2012 : A Law Society of Singapore (LSS) representative shows up uninvited to interject a court hearing human rights lawyer Mr Ravi is acting in, with a medical letter from the lawyer’s doctors stating that he is unfit to practise law. Mr Ravi had already voluntarily and through his own volition submitted himself for examination.
Sept 2012 : Blogger Alex Au notes in a blogpost that in a letter to a group of former detainees, Catholic Archbishop Nicholas Chia had backed a call to abolish the Internal Security Act (ISA), but following a lunch meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Chia retracted the letter. "The very fact that powerful forces would want these goings-on to be kept from the public eye is itself suspicious,” Au says.
Oct 2012 : In a statement, Ministry of Home Affairs said Abd Rahim bin Abdul Rahman and Husaini bin Ismail had been issued orders of detention under the ISA in March and June this year for involvement in terrorism-related activities. MHA added that restriction orders against 17 JI members were allowed to lapse between March 2012 and September 2012 for being cooperative and responsive to rehabilitation efforts.
Nov 2012 : Father James Minchin, author of "No Man is an Island: A Study of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew", arrives from Australia around midnight between November 7 and 8 and is told he has been barred from entering Singapore. A statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) says Minchin “has interfered in Singapore’s domestic politics” and that he had spoken at a political forum last year “where he alleged that the rule of law was bypassed and corrupted in Singapore, and questioned the independence and integrity of the judiciary”. The statement also mentioned the video produced by SDP, calling it a “political interview.”
Nov 2012 : PRC bus drivers stage the city-state's first industrial strike in 26 years to demand better pay and conditions. The two-day work stoppage results in the deportation of 29 drivers and a six-week jail term for one driver. The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development urges the release of the jailed and remanded drivers, saying that "the swift and harsh actions overlook the bases of their complaints about wage discrepancies and poor housing."
Dec 2012 : 81-year-old Australian human rights activist, Dr. Brian Senewiratne, accuses Singapore authorities of holding him in a cell without food, drink and toilet facilities for nearly five hours before deporting him. Senewiratne had been scheduled to speak about the plight of Sri Lankan refugees who flee from their homeland in flimsy boats only to wash up in Australia and Malaysia, where they are branded as illegal immigrants.
Jan 2013 : The Government bans Stoma, a play by theatre company Agni Koothu, citing that it contains "sexually explicit, blasphemous and offensive references and language which would be denigrating to the Catholic and the wider Christian community."
Jan 2013 : Blogger Alex Au is served a letter demanding he take down a blog post titled, “PAP mis-AIMed, faces blowback," about a computer systems deal involving the PAP. In the letter, Au’s post was said to contain “very serious suggestions of criminal breach of trust.”
Feb 2013 : Lynn Lee, a freelance film-maker, spends close to eight hours at the Singapore police headquarters in connection with her video interviews with two ex-SMRT bus drivers from China. Lee has her mobile phone and laptop searched during her interview, after having her phone, laptop and iMac seized from her home. Lee is asked more than 150 questions, many of which have nothing to do with the drivers' allegations of police abuse.
Mar 2013 : Nanyang Technological University denies tenure for a second time to Cherian George, an outspoken journalism professor known for his critical political commentary, prompting some scholars and students to accuse the school of curtailing academic freedom. Mr. George had his first tenure application rejected in 2009.
Mar 2013 : Cartoonist Leslie Chew is arrested for alleged sedition over a satirical comic strip on his Facebook page that appears to accuse the government of racism. The cartoon criticized the government’s treatment of the city-state’s ethnic Malay Muslim minority.
Apr 2013 : Justice Quentin Loh dismisses a gay couple's challenge to Section 377A. Justice Loh says that the question of whether the law should be removed or kept should be decided by Parliament, not the courts, noting that it is an issue of morality and societal values.
Apr 2013 : Six Malaysians are under investigation after initiating a campaign urging fellow Malaysians to return home to vote in the 13th general election. The group had walked about quietly along pavements, carrying posters and placards without disturbing the public order. They were requested to go to a police station as they did not have a permit.
Apr 2013 : The Council for Private Education (CPE), a statutory board, threatens Han Hui Hui, a 21-year-old student, with a defamation suit for publishing allegedly defamatory emails. Han’s emails alleged that private schools in the country provided their students with answers to standardized tests.
May 2013 : Singapore falls 14 places to a record 149th position in terms of press freedom, according to an annual report by non-governmental organisation Reporters Without Borders (RWB). On the list, Singapore is wedged in between Russia and Iraq, with Myanmar just two places behind.
May 2013 : Singapore activists and bloggers call on the government to withdraw a new MDA licensing scheme to regulate major online news sites. Under such a licence, the sites will have to put up a performance bond of S$50,000 and comply within 24 hours with any order by the media watchdog to take down objectionable content.
May 2013 : 21 Malaysians are arrested for their involvement in the flash mob protest at the Merlion against the outcome of Malaysia's general election. The police action followed earlier warnings that such gatherings are illegal.
May 2013 : In its annual report, Amnesty International criticises Singapore for its continued tight control on the media and the "widespread" political repression faced by dissidents and opposition activists.
Jun 2013 : Filmmaker Lynn Lee is issued a stern warning over online videos in which two Chinese bus drivers accused police in the city-state of assaulting them. "Ms Lee's conduct amounted to contempt of court by creating a real risk of prejudice to the criminal proceedings which were pending then," the AGC says in a statement.
Jun 2013 : In a media release, Human Rights Watch says that the MDA's new licensing rules seem intended to impose another check on popular websites more than to reduce any genuine harms. “Singapore’s new licensing requirement [will] clearly limit Singaporeans’ access to independent media,” says Cynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Websites will be forced into the role of private censors on behalf of the government.”
Jul 2013 : Cartoonist Leslie Chew is charged for committing "contempt of court by scandalizing the judiciary of the Republic of Singapore," the AGC says in a statement. The charges stem from four cartoons that Chew had published in 2011 and 2012, three of which were about the perceived unfairness of the courts when imposing punishment.
Jul 2013 : The government moves to bar The Independent, an upcoming news and current affairs website, from receiving foreign funding over fears the site could be a platform for overseas interests to influence local politics. The undertaking, the MDA notes, will "ensure that Singapore politics remain a matter for Singaporeans alone."
Aug 2013 : A security officer who vandalised the Cenotaph War Monument is sentenced to three months’ jail and three strokes of the cane. Mohamad Khalid Mohamad Yusop, 33, had used a can of red spray paint to write an “X” followed by the word “Democracy” on the monument.
Aug 2013 : The AGC turns down a request by the family of the late Mr Dinesh Raman to direct the coroner to reopen an inquest his death in 2010. The 21-year-old had died after a scuffle with eight prison officers following what the state described as a fierce struggle lasting thirty minutes. A criminal investigation by the authorities determined that the cause of death was "positional asphyxia." Deputy superintendent Lim Kwo Yin, the only one charged with regard to the incident, had previously been fined S$10,000 after pleading guilty.
Aug 2013 : The AGC says it will no longer pursue contempt of court charges against cartoonist Leslie Chew, after he publicly apologises and removes four offending cartoon strips from his Demon-cratic Singapore Facebook page.
Sept 2013 : At least 16 Muslims are still imprisoned without trial under the ISA. At least four of them have been detained for more than 10 years. Haji Ibrahim bin Haji Maidin, Mohamad Anuar bin Margono, Alahuddeen bin Abdullah and Mohd Aslam bin Yar Ali Khan were arrested shortly after 11 September 2001.
Oct 2013 : Police deny a permit for a March for Minimum Wage which was planned for International Human Rights Day. Filmmaker Martyn See had applied for the proposed route to start from Hong Lim Park and to end at the Istana. The police cite "risk of public order" in rejecting the permit.
Oct 2013 : The High Court dismisses a constitutional challenge against an archaic law criminalising sex between men, the second such petition turned down this year. A man who was arrested after being caught with a male partner in a public toilet cubicle had launched the challenge.
Nov 2013 : Yong Vui Kong, a Malaysian who was sentenced to hang in 2009, is spared the gallows after a judge rules he was satisfied Vui Kong acted as a drug courier, rather than having a wider part in the supply or distribution of narcotics. Vui Kong's sentence is commuted to life in prison and 15 strokes of the cane, marking the first time Singapore lifts the death penalty given to a drug trafficker.
Dec 2013 : Breakfast Network (BN), a local news commentary platform, announces its decision to close after much deliberation over the filling of C1 forms from the MDA under the Class License Act. Apart from the burden to prove that one does not receive foreign funding, the new forms also require the site to register names and other personal details of all contributors and editors involved with the website.
Dec 2013 : An Indian national is knocked down by a private bus in the Little India district on 8 December 2013, causing angry mobs of passersby to attack the bus at the scene. About 400 foreign workers hurl railings at police, set alight and overturn police cars and an ambulance. 39 police, SCDF and auxillary officers are injured.
Alcohol is quickly cited by the Government as the cause. Russell Heng, president of migrant workers' group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), says in a statement that Singapore should not see this event "purely as a law and order problem," adding that the foreign worker communities in Singapore have been at the receiving end of employment unfairness for a long time.
The Little India Riot is the first riot in Singapore since the 1969 race riots.
Jan 2014 : A Randstad report says Singapore workers are "the unhappiest in Asia." The survey finds that 23% of all Singaporean workers feel unmotivated and that their skills are not being used effectively. The main reasons for their unhappiness are an unsuitable corporate culture, demanding bosses and being asked to do more with less.
Feb 2014 : An Indian construction worker is sentenced to 15 weeks' prison on charges related to the Little India riot.
Mar 2014 : Lian Hock Kwee files a civil suit against the two doctors and Raffles Medical Group, who were providing medical services at Changi Women’s Prison (CWP). His daughter, 27-year old Lian Huizuan, had been sent to CWP for inhalant abuse; she was later found to have died from overmedication of the drugs that were prescribed to her while in prison. Both doctors apparently did not pick up the signs of Huizuan’s medical state although it was well documented in her medical file.
Mar 2014 : The AGC files a complaint against human rights lawyer M Ravi for releasing court documents to the media with respect to three cases. In the letter of complaint, the AGC claims that Mr Ravi acted “in a manner unbefitting an advocate and solicitor as an officer of the Supreme Court,” and that he made statements “to the media which contravened” parts of the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules.
Apr 2014 : Responding to the recent ranking by Reporters Without Borders where Singapore fell 14 places to a record 149th position in terms of press freedom, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says that he does not take seriously Singapore’s low rankings, as he believes the way the media is managed “makes sense” for the country.
May 2014 : Police arrest five 17-year old youths for suspected involvement in a Toa Payoh graffiti case depicting crude slogans against the PAP. Choo Zheng Xi, a lawyer in private practice, criticises the Singapore mainstream media for subjecting the boys to public humiliation and not recognizing the importance of protecting the privacy of children (defined in international human rights treaties as a person below the age of 18).
May 2014 : Blogger Roy Ngerng is served with a letter of demand by lawyers for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, for writing an article titled, “Where Your CPF Money Is Going: Learning From The City Harvest Trial." “The article means and is understood to mean that Mr Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister and Chairman of GIC, is guilty of criminal misappropriation of the monies paid by Singaporeans to the CPF,” says the lawyer's letter.
The letter demands the article be removed from Mr Ngerng’s blog site and Facebook pages, for an apology to be posted on Mr Ngerng’s blog, and for Mr Ngerng to compensate Mr Lee by way of damages and to pay legal costs. Mr Ngerng is given three days to accede.
PM Lee Hsien Loong’s lawyers reject blogger Roy Ngerng’s $5,000 offer in damages as being “derisory” and proceed with legal process against Ngerng. The sum was based on Mr Ngerng’s modest living and income.
Jun 2014 : Roy Ngerng successfully raises fees for his legal defence in four days through crowdfunding, exceeding his target of SG $70,000 when he launched the campaign.
Jun 2014 : Roughly 2,000 people protest against perceived inadequacies in Singapore's state-run pension system, signaling rising discontent over retirement savings in the city-state. The demonstration at Hong Lim Park is the largest held since early 2013, when two protests against the government's immigration policies each drew more than 3,000 people.
Jun 2014 : The employer of blogger Roy Ngerng, Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), publicly fires him for “conduct incompatible with the values and standards expected of employees” and for using hospital resources for personal reasons. The Ministry of Health intervenes to publicly support the hospital’s decision, even though the ministry was not involved in the matter. In a blog post, Ngerng writes that his sacking was "politically motivated.”
Jun 2014 : Taiwanese singer A-Mei is told that she cannot perform her song “Rainbow” in the Spring Wave Music Festival held at Gardens by the Bay just before her performance begins. The song depicts relationships between homosexuals.
Jun 2014 : Hong Kong's South China Morning Post publishes an open letter by author Catherine Lim about the “unprecedented crisis of trust” between the PAP Government and the people of Singapore. A week later, Singapore's Consul-General comments on Lim's long history as a government critic, while PAP MP Janil Puthucheary writes in The Straits Times that Ms Lim "cannot be trusted to be consistent in her own statements."
Jun 2014 : A Human Rights Watch dispatch writes about "the perils of blogging in Singapore," mentioning that free speech in the country is only free depending on who you are and who you are talking about. It describes government leaders as quick to bring a lawsuit in response to public [criticisms] that are ordinary in rights-respecting democracies.
Jul 2014 : The National Library Board (NLB) announces it will destroy three children's books with pro-LGBT families themes as they saw the titles as being "against its 'pro-family' stance" following complaints by a parent and its own internal review." Minister for Communications and Information, Yaacob Ibrahim, supports the NLB’s decision and says the NLB has to “reflect community norms.”
The decision is widely criticized by LGBT supporters and the arts and literary community. Two of the books are eventually placed in the adult section instead of being pulped.
Jul 2014 : The MDA confirms that the comic, "Archie: The Married Life” Book Three was withdrawn from bookstores because its content “breached guidelines by depicting same-sex marriage of two characters.” The MDA said its Publications Consultative Panel advised that the theme of the comic was “not in line with social norms."
Jul 2014 : Amnesty International and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network publish a press release condemning the resumption of executions. “The executions by hanging of Tang Hai Liang and Foong Chee Peng represent a massive leap backwards for human rights in Singapore,” says Hazel Galang-Folli, AI’s Singapore researcher. “It is extremely disappointing that the authorities [did] not build on their clean record of no executions over the past two years to push for more reforms in the country.”
Aug 2014 : Former Robinsons employee Lawrence Wee, who claims to have been forced to resign from his position due to his homosexuality, has his appeal to the high court rejected. The decision confirms that employees who are 'forced to resign' after their employer makes their work-life unbearable are not entitled to any extra compensation.
Sept 2014 : Award winning film “To Singapore, with Love” by Singaporean film maker Tan Pin Pin, which depicts stories of Singapore political exiles, is classified by the MDA as Not Allowed for All Ratings (NAR). The documentary is banned from public screening in Singapore on the grounds that it undermines national security; MDA states that the individuals in the film gave "distorted and untruthful accounts."
Sept 2014 : The BBC censors a scene in the TV series, “Dr Who,” in order “to comply with the MDA broadcast code in Singapore.” The deleted scene in the sci-fi series is of Madame Vastra, a Silurian lizard-woman, “kissing” her human wife.
Sept 2014 : A clash of events occurs during a double booking at Hong Lim Park involving the YMCA and organisers of the Return Our CPF protests. The Straits Times and several Members of Parliament accuse the CPF protesters of heckling the special needs children performing at the YMCA event.
Oct 2014 : 22-year old blogger Han Hui Hui is questioned by police for seven hours over a possible offence of unlawful assembly during the CPF protest event which Ms Han had organised in September. Online reports say a notebook Ms Han is using to take down notes during the interview is seized by the police, and that she was not allowed to call her lawyer, M Ravi.
Oct 2014 : In a letter explaining the rationale for disallowing the film "To Singapore With Love" to be shown in public, the press secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister says that allowing it "would be like allowing jihadi terrorist groups today to produce and publicly screen films that glorify their jihadist cause."
Oct 2014 : In a joint statement, The National Parks Board (NParks) and the Singapore Police Force announce that the approval for blogger Han Hui Hui to speak and demonstrate at the Speakers Corner for the monthly CPF protest event has been cancelled. NParks says it will not approve further applications for use of Speakers Corner made by people under investigation for the double-booking Hong Lim Park event, until their cases are concluded.
Oct 2014 : The National Solidarity Party (NSP) appeals to the president over the refusal by the MDA to renew its printing permit for its party newspaper. The main point of dispute is the submission of the monthly salary and "disposable capital" of each member of the NSP Central Executive Committee (CEC) to the Registrar of Newspapers (RON). The CEC members object to the requirements on grounds that they intrude into their personal privacy and personal confidentiality.
Nov 2014 : The High Court allows summary judgement against blogger Roy Ngerng in the defamation suit filed by PM Lee Hsien Loong. The judge also orders an injunction to restrain Mr Ngerng from publishing or disseminating allegations that Mr Lee is guilty of criminal misappropriation of the monies paid by Singaporeans to the Central Provident Funds, or any words or images to the same effect.
Nov 2014 : In an interview with a Chinese television outlet, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong defends the high salaries of government officers. Members of Parliament are currently paid S$16,000 per month; this amount is justified as a salary that is “realistic” and “correct."
Dec 2014 : For the first time in its history, Dim Sum Dollies – The History of Singapore Part 2 is issued a classification rating of “Advisory 16 (Some Mature Content)” by the MDA, on account of sociopolitical references in the musical cabaret group's work. The MDA grants it a licence to perform just three days before the show is set to open at the Esplanade.
Jan 2015 : The Singapore court orders Roy Ngerng to pay S$29,000 (US$21,700) to PM Lee Hsien Loong as legal costs, after Lee won a defamation case late last year.
Jan 2015 : For “misconduct unbefitting an advocate and solicitor,” human rights lawyer M. Ravi is fined $7,000 by the Council of the Law Society of Singapore. In a statement, Human Rights Watch says it is "deeply concerned that the disciplinary sanctions and significant fines against Ravi are being imposed to punish him for his important human rights work on behalf of LGBT people, migrant workers and others."
Jan 2015 : The High Court decides that blogger Alex Au scandalised the judiciary in one of his blog posts, titled “377 wheels come off Supreme Court’s best laid plans." Justice Belinda Ang found that Au's post had unfairly suggested that the Chief Justice had acted impartially, which she ruled risked undermining public confidence in the administration of justice in Singapore.
Feb 2015 : In the 2015 World Press Freedom Index, Singapore is placed three notches down its previous year's 150th place, the worst showing since the index began in 2002.
Feb 2015 : The Singapore Police Force rejects an application by Gilbert Goh to hold an event at Speakers’ Corner. Mr Goh’s event is titled “In Solidarity with Singaporean Indians – Thaipusam to be Made a Public Holiday." Police reject the Hong Lim Park event application as “the planned event runs a significant risk of public disorder."
Feb 2015 : The Law Society of Singapore orders Human Rights lawyer, M. Ravi to stop his legal practice until he goes for a medical examination. This comes after Ravi's client filed an application to the High Court regarding issues pertaining to Thaipusam, which is described by the Attorney-General’s Chambers as "scandalous, frivolous and vexatious, and an abuse of process."
Feb 2015 : Two persons from socio-political website, The Real Singapore (TRS), are arrested and investigated by the police for offenses under the Sedition Act. The arrests were prompted by an article alleging that a Filipino family's complaint over noise from drummers led to a scuffle during a Hindu procession. Singaporean law student Yang Kaiheng (26) and Australian citizen Ai Takagi (22) may be fined up to $5,000 or jailed for up to three years, or both.
Feb 2015 : Filmmaker Martyn See files a police report against the Minister of State for Health Dr Lam Pin Min, over his Facebook posting on a Thaipusam incident. See claims Dr Lam’s comment incited enmity towards the Hindu community by "stating as fact that devotees were intoxicated while participating in the holy festival of Thaipusam." The police eventually drops the case against Dr Lam.
Feb 2015 : Dr Ting Choon Meng and The Online Citizen (TOC) receive a lawyer’s letter from the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) over the a video interview with the latter who had alleged that the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) had copied his patented concept for an emergency mobile clinic. The AGC threatens to use the Protection from Harassment Act, citing that Dr Ting had made "false statements" against MINDEF.
Mar 2015 : Blogger Alex Au is fined $8,000 for contempt of court over an article that allegedly implied the Chief Justice showed partiality towards two constitutional challenges against Section 377A, the law which criminalises sex between men.
Mar 2015 : Lee Kuan Yew dies, prompting extensive newspaper coverage and televised tributes.
A 2013 Order designating Hong Lim Park as an "unrestricted area" under the Public Order Act is revoked while an estimated 400,000 people make a beeline to the Istana to pay their last respects to the founding prime minister.
Mar 2015 : In a 8-minute youtube video entitled "Lee Kuan Yew Is Finally Dead!", 16-year-old Amos Yee denounces the late Lee Kuan Yew as "a horrible person", calls the government "undoubtedly totalitarian" and likens Lee's supporters to "malicious and power-hungry" Christians. Responding to a flurry of police complaints, police arrests the teenager in his home on charges of wounding religious feelings, offensive remarks against Lee Kuan Yew and circulating obscene material for a separate blogpost depicting Lee and Margaret Thatcher in a cartoon.
Apr 2015 : Two Singaporean men, aged 24 and 25, are arrested for staging a weekend protest outside the Istana. A Singapore Police Force spokesman says the duo are arrested for organising a public assembly without a permit under the Public Order Act.
Apr 2015 : Yang Kaiheng and Ai Takagi of socio-political website The Real Singapore (TRS) are charged with seven counts of sedition and one for failing to produce documents to an officer from the Criminal Investigation Department. The couple were told to provide information about the website's operations and finances to authorities.
May 2015 : In compliance to an order by the Government to shut down within six hours or face fines and imprisonment, The Real Singapore (TRS) removes its website and all its online channels. MDA states that TRS had "sought to incite foreigner sentiments in Singapore" and orders the website owners not to resume any online operations under any other name.
May 2015 : The owner of new website 'Straits Times Review' changes its name to 'States Times Review' after Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) announces that it is considering legal recourse against its owner for using the name of its flagship newspaper. Australia-based Singaporean Alex Tan, the owner of STR, adds that he has changed the name to "avoid legal confrontation with The Straits Times."
May 2015 : The court grants the application by MINDEF under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) against Dr Ting Choon Ming and The Online Citizen over a video interview. District Judge Bala Reddy orders that the video must include a prominent notification - at the start and at the end of the video, and lasting at least 30 seconds each - that certain statements made by Dr Ting have since been declared by the courts to be false. The judge also ruled that the Government has the legal right to apply for an order under POHA.
May 2015 : At a dialogue, Minister Lawrence Wong reveals that the government might be considering laws to protect the name and image of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister, against "commercial exploitation and misuse."
May 2015 : The Government bans the song "We’re All Different, Yet The Same" by Taiwanese artiste Jolin Tsai for local broadcasting, purportedly due to its promotion of gay marriage. According to Mingpao News, the MDA sent ban notices to television and radio stations in the country to not air the song or the music video.
May 2015 : Singapore Press Holdings files a copyright infringement suit against Yang Kaiheng and Ai Takagi of The Real Singapore (TRS), citing at least 191 articles from its stable of newspapers that were substantially reproduced, without licence or authorisation, in the form of 177 articles on TRS.
May 2015 : The National Arts Council (NAC) withdraws its earlier approved $8,000 publication grant to Malaysia-born award-winning comics artist, Sonny Liew due to "sensitive content" depicted in his 324-page comic book. In a press statement, NAC says that "The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye" potentially “undermines the authority or legitimacy” of the Government.
Jun 2015 : A heroin trafficker who has been on death row for more than 4 years fails in his bid to escape the gallows, after the High Court found that he did not meet the criteria to be re-sentenced to life imprisonment. Kester Ng Wei Ren, 54, is the first to have his application for re-sentencing dismissed.
Jun 2015 : The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) sends The Online Citizen a take-down notification for a letter by Mr Alfred Dodwell, the lawyer representing Amos Yee. The letter had described Yee's deteriorating physical and psychological health in the Institute of Mental Health. The AGC says that publication of the letter amounts to sub judice conduct. Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights Office for South-East Asia (OHCHR) urges the Singapore Government to consider the best interests of the 16-year-old prisoner. Events organised by civil society groups in Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore are subsequently held to campaign for Yee's release.
Jul 2015 : Migrant workers' rights activist Jolovan Wham is not allowed to register a company. In October 2013, the Ministry of Finance denied the application of the Community Action Network (CAN) to register under the Companies Act, stating that it would be "against national interest." The Finance Ministry found that prior activities to assist migrant workers by Jolovan Wham, the proposed co-director of CAN, meant that CAN might serve as a "vehicle for unwarranted labor agitation, especially among foreign workers."
Jul 2015 : Singapore is ranked Tier 2 in the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report released by the US Department of State, meaning that the government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The report highlights that many low-wage migrant workers accrue significant debts through recruitment fees, making them vulnerable to forced labour.
Jul 2015 : Blogger Amos Yee is handed a backdated four-week jail sentence and is released. The prosecution decides not to press for reformative training, citing the “seismic shift” in Yee's attitude in the time he has been held. Yee, who spent a total of 55 days detained on remand as the court considered his sentence, is downcast and dazed as he leaves the court. Hong Kong protesters had burnt effigies of Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong to protest the Singapore government's treatment of the teenager.
Aug 2015 : SWAMI Home, a Voluntary Welfare Organisation, is reprimanded by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) after a complaint by NGO worker Ravi Philemon that the organisation had breached its own constitution by allowing its premises to be used by the PAP to unveil its candidates. A MHA spokesman says that the "Swami is a registered society. It is obliged to adhere to its constitution."
Aug 2015 : A Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) video, entitled “Pappy Washing Powder”, is classified a party political film by the Media Development Authority (MDA) and therefore prohibited under the Films Act. SDP calls on the government to review its classification of the party’s satirical video, with SDP Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan arguing that the Films Act has not been consistently applied to all parties, including the government.
Updated from May 2012 by Jess C. Scott
1994 - 2015: A Chronology of Authoritarian Rule in Singapore