New powers to enable the authorities to counter foreign attempts to influence domestic politics, incite social tensions or sway key national decisions are contained in a new Bill tabled in Parliament this week. If passed into law, these powers will enhance safeguards already in place to ensure that politics here remains a domain for Singaporeans alone. For example, gaps in the Political Donations Act, which will be repealed, will be filled by new requirements. The legislation will preserve existing legal obligations and feature additional measures. There is a clear need for updated laws to counter the ever more sophisticated forms of external attempts to influence and intervene in the domestic politics of a country.
A report on foreign interference in Asia by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies last year revealed the interplay between foreign influence, interference, soft power and hostile information campaigns. Forms of interference range from the covert funding of politicians, parties, officials, influential persons, non-governmental organisations and the media, to cyber attacks and hostile information campaigns. The study concluded that as there is a spectrum - from open and legitimate influence to deceptive and illegitimate interference - states must define clearly the "red lines" which foreign entities must not cross. The proposed legislation does that by foreclosing the options of proxies of foreign players wishing to subvert the domestic system.