MDA Saga: MP Baey indirectly reveals the redundancy of GPCs
Yesterday evening (2 Jun), MP Baey Yam Keng conducted his usual once-a-month online session to engage with netizens on his Facebook page. It is usually held in the evening of the first Sunday of every month.
Given MDA’s new licensing requirement which has been perceived by many bloggers and netizens as a means to curb free speech and clamp down on dissent, many netizens went online to engage with MP Baey on this very issue.
In one of the conversations, MP Baey said that online news sites like TRE, TOC and Publichouse are not required to apply for the new licence:
At one point, Andrew Loh of Publichouse asked Mr Baey, who is the Deputy Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Communications and Information, if he and Mr Zaqy, the Chairman, had been consulted over the new ruling.
This is a pertinent question since theoretically, GPCs are established to examine the policies, programmes and proposed legislation of a particular government ministry and to provide the ministry with feedback and suggestions. They are also supposed to be consulted by the ministry on issues of public interest.
When GPCs were introduced in the late 80s, Goh Chok Tong, then First Deputy Prime Minister, said that the 3 main reasons for establishing GPCs were:
- to increase the participation of MPs in policymaking
- to give the public a say in government policies through sitting on resource panels, and
- to strengthen democratic institutions in the country.
To everyone’s surprise, Mr Baey replied that GPC was “briefed” with regard to the announcement of MDA’s new ruling. In other words, GPC was not “consulted”.
Mr Baey further clarified that the role of GPC is not to “craft or approve” any new regulations from the ministry. However, he said that GPC’s role is to “reflect the views of the public to the government and propose for it to make any necessary changes”. In other words, it acts as some kind of feedback unit. But is the government entity REACH not supposed to do this?
In any case, should feedback not be given and the public consulted before the rules are enacted and not afterwards? What is the use then of GPC? More to the point, what is the use of Mr Baey and Mr Zaqy helming the GPC for Communications and Information?
Mr Baey then said that the new MDA ruling is a “symbolic gesture” intended to send a signal to the blogosphere.
Meanwhile, the blogger community is organizing a protest at Hong Lim Park this Saturday to give some “real feedback” to the Ministry of Communications and Information, which MDA falls under:
Date: 8 June 2013
Time: 4.00pm – 7.00pm
Venue: Speakers’ Corner, Hong Lim Park
Be there or be square!
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