Periscope: Deep Dive Day Special – Friends to All and Enemy to None

Written by: Wong Sean Yew (19-U4)

Designed by: Lee En Tong (19-U2)

In conjunction with Deep Dive Day #3, this Special Edition aims to summarise Mr. V.P. Hirubalan’s speech on Singapore’s Foreign Policy in Practice. We were honoured to have Mr. Hirubalan, an illustrious diplomat, to provide insight into Singapore’s diplomacy, an issue which is especially relevant in this Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) era. Here are some key points that were highlighted during the session.

Mr. Hirubalan detailed several challenges for Singapore. He highlighted that Singapore, despite being multiracial, still has a Chinese majority. As a result, some may perceive that Singapore is heavily influenced by China. It is therefore imperative for Singapore to cement its status as a non-Chinese state, and as a state which is not a supplicant to China, for it to establish a strong Singaporean identity on the world stage. 

He further emphasised that the international rules-based order is currently threatened, possibly disrupting the multilateral trade regime. Singapore is especially threatened by this, given how trade constitutes a whopping 322% of Singapore’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and given the fact that it is at the crossroads of major trade routes. He also further discussed Singapore’s vulnerability to great power rivalry, with a prominent example being the ongoing US-China Trade War.

He then further explained several key principles in Singapore’s foreign policy. 

It is critical to assert Singapore’s rights to sovereignty. He mentioned that by their nature, small states are susceptible to pressure from major powers to concede, even when the national interests of small states are compromised. To do this, diplomacy with other countries and the continued effectiveness of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) are key. 

Singapore must also maintain its hard-earned position as a leader in the region. This ensures our relevance so that other countries have an interest to us as small states have no irreplaceable role in the global ecosystem.

Singapore must then be reliable, credible and consistent in its stance on the need for constructive discussion on various issues. For instance, Singapore’s role as a host of the Trump-Kim Summit, and other important events encapsulates and entrenches its reputation as a reliable, credible and consistent nation, which will benefit us in the long run.

It is vital for Singapore’s survival that we promote the global, rules-based order. He mentioned the importance of the survival of small states in a rules-based order due to the power and influence exerted by larger countries. Hence, Singapore requires the power of intergovernmental organisations such as the United Nations to ensure its survival in a world where might is a strength. For instance, airspace management has often been a point of contention between Singapore and various other larger countries. He brought up the airspace dispute between Singapore and Indonesia, which was brought up to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a UN agency for arbitration. The ICAO subsequently judged that Singapore should remain in control of the airspace, demonstrating the importance of such organisations to small states. 

Lastly, Singapore’s foreign policy is premised on the adage that she should be ‘a friend to all, and enemy to none’, in his opinion, a realistic approach for small states. Singapore even seeks to reach out to those who do not actively seek to establish relations to ensure bilateral ties can be established between all countries. To prove this, Mr. Hirubalan shared what he experienced in his stint as the first ambassador to Saudi Arabia in 2006, where Mr. Lee Kuan Yew visited Saudi Arabia three times to demonstrate the emphasis Singapore places on bilateral ties. Furthermore, to become a country that is actively sought out by other countries, Singapore needs to be successful. Saudi Arabia saw Singapore as a model to develop a megacity and wanted to collaborate with Singapore on it. Saudi Arabia also sought advice to establish a new university, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

In addition, Mr. Hirubalan felt that the lack of awareness of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)’s partnerships with Singapore among Singaporean youths was worrying, due to ASEAN’s importance to Singapore. 

So far, ASEAN has been successful in the promotion of peace, stability, and cooperation for five decades, allowing countries to focus on national development. According to him, it has fostered economic cooperation, as shown by how Singapore has invested heavily in many countries in ASEAN and how a common market has been created. As a result, it enhances the voice of the region, as a united voice from ASEAN can result in more effective results. ASEAN also allows the region to play a leading role, as seen by how ASEAN are partners with the Permanent 5 (P5) countries in the United Nations.

Mr. Hirubalan also commented on ASEAN’s relevance to Singaporean youths today. Firstly, ASEAN has engendered peace in the region, creating a liveable home for all. Secondly, it has expedited travel between ASEAN nations and now, Singaporeans will be able to seek help from ASEAN embassies if a Singapore embassy is unavailable.

He concluded by suggesting how youths in Singapore can contribute to the effectiveness of our foreign policy. As youths, we can contribute to the creation of a united and cohesive country. This is crucial as other states have already tried to impede national cohesion through tools such as fake news, which has proliferated through avenues like social media. He also reminded Eunoians to be alert and understand our vulnerabilities so that other countries cannot take advantage of our diversity.

Mr V.P. Hirubalan’s speech, though easy to understand, is certainly a tall order to carry into the future. Yet, for Singapore’s continued safety and position in this precarious sphere that is the world, it appears that the safest strategy is to stick to our principles.

Weathered Wars: Iran and Iraq

This is another collaborative piece with the Eunoia Strategic Affairs Society (E-SAS) Interest Group! This time, we look at a historical conflict – the Iran-Iraq War.

Written by: Bae Soo Youn (19-I5, ESAS)

Edited by: Sit Jie Ren (19-I4, EJC Press and ESAS) and Wong Sean Yew (19-U4, EJC Press and ESAS)

Designed by: Lee En Tong (19-U2)

Image Credit:


In 1980, Saddam Hussein launched an attack on the newly constituted Islamic Republic of Iran. What was initially expected to be a quick and easy war for the Iraqis soon devolved into an 8-year long protracted conflict (Black, 2010), triggering rising religious sectarianism in the Middle East.

Hussein, in his miscalculations, predicted that Iran would be heavily disorganised following its 1979 revolution which would grant the Iraqis a significant military advantage, and greatly hamper Iranian retaliation. The commencement of the war saw the Iraqis seizing the initiative, and obtained significant military gains in Iran (, 2009). Yet, Iranian revolutionary fervour enabled it to mobilise its vast population and began to repel the invasion, and gain the initiative, mounting operations to take Iraqi cities and territory (Hardy, 2005). However, the severely weakened Iranian National Guard, following leadership purges and equipment maintenance issues, hampered efforts to mount effective operations (, 2009).

With either side unable to gain any initiative, the war situation deteriorated into a stalemate as the Iraqis were not in a position to end the war, while the Iranians refused to do so (, 2009). This stalemate would ensue for close to a decade, with trench warfare inflicting huge losses of life (Doucet, 2015). Chemical weapons and ballistic missiles were utilised, and by the end of the war, the casualty count was estimated at 1 million (Black, 2010).

Points of Contention

Religious, Sectarian Factors (Beliefs and Values)

Due to Iraq’s demographics, with around 60% of its population being Shi’i Muslims, the dominant Sunni Muslims practices a secular ideology known as Arab Nationalism, which emphasises the importance of Arab solidarity and collectivism. This diametrically opposed the ideology practised by Iran, that of Islamic Fundamentalism, which promotes obedience to ancient Islamic beliefs, while condemning Western or modern views. By their nature, these two ideologies are mutually exclusive in their implementation, hence this war can be seen as a reflection of the rift between these two values (Swearingen, 1988).

Foreign Intervention in the War (Power and influence)

Many foreign powers hold vested interests in the region and exert their power and influence in accordance with this. The Arab states aim to ensure that neither state achieve total victory and become too powerful. As Iran went on the offensive, the international community intervened in the war. The West funded and supported Iraq with weapons and raw materials for gas and chemical weapons (Black, 2010), while Saudi Arabia, fearing increasing Shi’i influence in the region, subsidized the Iraqi war effort. This foreign intervention effectively rendered Iraq as a proxy of Saudi Arabia, and prolonged the war for another 7 years. 

Discussion: ‘Countries experiencing conflict should be left to sort out their own problems.’ How far do you agree? (2016 A Level Question)


  1. Hardy, R. (2005, September 22). The Iran-Iraq War: 25 years on. British Broadcasting Corporation, Retrieved from
  2. Black, I. (2010, September 23). Iran-Iraq remember war that cost more than a million lives. The Guardian, Retrieved from
  3. Doucet, L. (2015, October 6). Legacy of Iran-Iraq war lives on. British Broadcasting
    Corporation, Retrieved from
  5. (2009, November 9). Iran-Iraq War. Retrieved from
  6. Swearingen, W. (1988). Geopolitical Origins of the Iran-Iraq War. Geographical Review, 78(4), 405-416. doi:10.2307/215091
  7. Faily, L. (2018, August 21). Reflecting on the Iran-Iraq War, Thirty Years Later. Atlantic Council, Retrieved from


Periscope: Summary of the Qatar Diplomatic Crisis

This Periscope article is a collaborative piece jointly completed by members of Eunoia Junior College Press and the Eunoia Strategic Affairs Society (ESAS) Student-Initiated Interest Group. As part of EJC Press and ESAS’ efforts to contribute to the student community, we intend to continually bring you high-quality Current Affairs Summaries through Periscope. 

Written by Wong Sean Yew (EJC Press and ESAS) and Clarence Sim (EJC Press and ESAS) 

Designed by: Jo Yeoul (19-A2)


The Qatar Diplomatic Crisis is an issue that involves multiple nations largely in the Middle East. Singapore and Qatar have often been compared, due to their similar geopolitical attributes as small states. This unresolved crisis is still ongoing and its effects plague Qatar even to this day. In this article, we documented a short summary on the key details of this issue. Do use the Universal Concepts (UC) to guide you.


The Qatar Diplomatic Crisis was sparked by statements that were allegedly made by Qatar News Agency, a state-run Qatari news agency. It portrayed the Qatar Emir making disparaging comments about Trump’s presidency, suggesting good relations with Iran and Israel, while commending Hamas militants. Although the Qatar News Agency has claimed that this was a result of cyberattacks, the surrounding countries, namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen, has alleged that this is Qatar’s official position in the region; that it supported terrorist organisations (Kirkpatrick & Frenkel, 2017). As a result, many severed relations with Qatar, erasing all border links with her, causing a diplomatic crisis. Furthermore, most of them closed their airspace to Qatar, causing the national carrier to divert and cancel flights across the region, inconveniencing hundreds of travellers. Heavily reliant on imports across its border with Saudi Arabia, Qatari citizens initially rushed to buy up foodstuffs, but this has been greatly relieved with external help. Qatar’s enemies have issued a list of demands to Qatar for relief from their restrictions, but Qatar refused, as it claims that it is a contravention of their sovereignty (British Broadcasting Corporation, 2017). Qatar claims to be able to withstand the crisis, with its vast reserves and imports from other countries (The Straits Times, 2017).

Points of Contention
While the crisis has multiple points of contention, we will focus on two of the main points.

Rising Nationalism (UC: Identity)

The Qatar Diplomatic Crisis has resulted in a sharp increase in nationalism among many Qataris, many who rally around the Qatari Emir in support of his resistance against the issued demands. Along with an increase in the number of displays of national imagery, such as the Qatari royal family and the national flag, many eligible Qataris have also voluntarily enlisted themselves into the military out of patriotism. The Qatar Diplomatic Crisis seems to have become a defining event in the rise and augmentation of the Qatari national identity, which has already been strengthening due to Qatar’s progress over the past few decades (Cafiero, 2017).

Nationalism: Political ideology. A sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). 

The Issue of Small States (UC: Power and Influence)

Eminent diplomat Kishore Mahbubani has stated that the situation in Qatar should serve as a valuable lesson for small states such as Singapore. He claimed that due to their wealth and the close relationship with the United States of America, Qatar frequently intervened in various regional situations such as those in Syria and Yemen. Their attempted projections of power and influence resulted in a response from the prominent powers in the Middle East, causing a diplomatic crisis. This could be applied to Singapore, a similar small state. Hence, he believes Singapore should be restrained in its statements if it involves larger powers (Mahbubani, 2017).

Some have also postulated that the cause of this crisis could be Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood. It was claimed that the surrounding countries were afraid of the potential power and influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, as demonstrated in the Brotherhood’s rise in politics in the wake of the Arab Spring, and hence decided to ignite this diplomatic crisis in order to stop Qatari support for the group (Trager, 2017).

Discussion: Should small states actively advocate for their own interests or ‘act their size’?

For an opposing view, do look at Bilahari Kausikan’s piece on The Straits Times, “Singapore cannot be cowed by size”.

For further reading, feel free to access the following links

Kirkpatrick, D. M., & Frenkel, S. (2017, June 09). Hacking in Qatar Highlights a Shift Toward Espionage-for-Hire. Retrieved from 

British Broadcasting Corporation. (2017, July 19). Qatar crisis: What you need to know.  Retrieved from 

The Straits Times (2017, July 17) Qatar Crisis: How the Gulf nation is responding to blockade by bigger neighbours. Retrieved from

Cafiero, G. (2017, July 7) A rising wave of Qatari nationalism. Retrieved from

Mahbubani, K. (2017, July 02). Qatar: Big lessons from a small country. Retrieved from

Trager, E. (2017, July 02). The Muslim Brotherhood Is the Root of the Qatar Crisis. Retrieved from

Merriam-Webster (n.d.). Nationalism. Retrieved from



Why do Brexit deals keep getting rejected? What does it mean for Britain, me, you and your GP grades? Find out more in this week’s issue of Periscope.

Written by: Sit Jie Ren (19-I4)

Designed by: Athena Lim (19-A4)



Brexit has become a media circus this year, and a recurrent topic of public debate. However, not many fully understand the situation and reasons behind the House of Commons’ repeated rejections of the various Brexit deals which have been proposed. This article will examine 2 of them in depth so that Eunoians can become informed citizens of the world. Do use the Universal Concepts (UCs) to guide you.


Following Britain’s monumental decision to leave the European Union, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, negotiated a deal with European leaders over the course of several years, which culminated in a 600 page ‘Brexit Deal’. However, when this deal was put before the House of Commons, it was rejected a total of 3 times, with the votes returning a resounding no. (202-432, 242-391, 286-344) (BBC, 2019a) 2 rounds of voting on multiple alternative options proposed by various MPs also failed to gain any traction in the British Parliament, with the closest vote, Option C, short of a mere 3 votes (BBC, 2019c). The repeated inability of the British Parliament to pass a Brexit deal or option has led some to believe that Britain has lost control over Brexit proceedings. As a result of the failure for a deal to be produced, the Brexit date has been repeatedly revised and postponed, and it now stands at 31 October 2019 (BBC, 2019a).

Points of Contention

The Meaningful Vote: Theresa May’s Deal – Irish Backstop (UC: Conflict and Consensus)

One of the key points of contention surrounding Theresa May’s Brexit Deal is the Irish backstop agreement.

When Irish rebels fought against the Royal Army and declared Irish independence in 1918, the British managed to hold on to the region of Ulster, which is now commonly known as Northern Ireland. The resulting “hard” border led to a long conflict between the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and Britain, spanning from 1968 to 1989. The conflict culminated in the “Good Friday Agreement” which created a ceasefire and the removal of border controls. There have been fears that a reinstated “hard” border could result in a resurgence of violence (please refer to our article, HAW History Special: Troubling Troubles in North Ireland for more details).

To avoid the return of the Irish “hard” border, Theresa May’s deal proposes the implementation of a backstop agreement. Under the backstop, Britain would remain under the EU single market under a transitional period until December 2020. Should no solution be found by then, Britain would exit the single market, but Northern Ireland would remain in the single market, albeit with some rules exempted. This brought huge backlash as it essentially meant that goods travelling from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland would have to pass through customs checks, and imposing what amounts to effectual customs arrangements within the United Kingdom (Campbell, 2019). House of Commons MPs have lambasted the deal for “threatening the union (of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)” and the Democratic Unionist Party (a political party based in Ireland) has repeatedly called for the backstop to be removed.

Motion C: Customs Union – Ken Clarke (UC: Systems, Structures & Freedoms)

In the indicative votes, various Members of Parliament proposed various alternative Brexit options. The Customs Union proposal, proposed by Conservative MP Ken Clarke, was the closest to achieving a majority in the House of Commons, being rejected by a vote of 273-276, short of 3 votes (BBC, 2019c).

Under the proposed Brexit Option, Britain would leave the EU but remain in Customs Union, which means that there would be minimal to no checks along British borders. Goods will be allowed to trade between Britain and other EU countries customs free and duty-free. One of the key reasons Britons voted ‘Leave’ in the referendum was to regain control of their own rules and regulations instead of the EU’s. This option was quickly accused of betraying the results of the referendum by the ‘Leave’ camp as it continued to retain ties with the EU, and that this deal binds Britain to EU trade regulations, as goods imported from outside the EU will be subject to a common tariff, set by the EU (European Commission, n.d.).

Recent Developments

Theresa May has since announced her resignation following mounting pressure from her party, and the public over her failure to deliver a Brexit deal on time. The Conservatives are now in the midst of a leadership race, with several notable competitors such as Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt. Her successor will be elected on 22 July 2019 (BBC, 2019e).



For more in-depth reading about this issue, feel free to access the following links.


Serhan, Y. (2019, March 28). In a Bid to ‘Take Back Control,’ Britain Lost It. The Atlantic, Retrieved from


Campbell, J. (2019, April 5). Brexit: What is the Irish border backstop? BBC, Retrieved from


European Commission (n.d.). EU Customs Union. Retrieved from


BBC (2019, March 30a). Brexit: MPs reject May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement. Retrieved from


BBC (2019, April 1b). Brexit: What alternative plans did MPs vote on? Retrieved from


BBC (2019, April 1c). How did my MP vote on Brexit indicative votes? Retrieved from


BBC (2019, April 11d). Brexit: UK and EU agree delay to 31 October. Retrieved from


BBC (2019, June 7e). Theresa May officially steps down as Tory leader. Retrieved from

Brexit I: Referendum – Why Out?

With GP exams round the corner, have no fear because Periscope is here with more current affairs articles! Moving on, BREXIT!

Written by: Sit Jie Ren (19-I4)

Designed by: Lee En Tong (19-U2)

Are there specific current affairs topics you want the Periscope team to cover? Fill in this form and maybe your suggested topic will surface in the next Periscope article!


On 23 June 2016, a plebiscite was held on the issue of British membership in the European Union (EU). The results shocked the world, which had anticipated that the ‘Remain’ camp would prevail and reaffirm its commitment to Europe. The fallout that followed quickly transformed into one of the greatest media circuses of the 21st Century. This article will examine the various factors that led to Britain’s decision, so that Eunoians can become informed citizens of the world. Do use the Universal Concepts (UC) to guide you.


Britain, being an island nation with a long history of naval dominance, has been effectively isolated from Europe for most of history. Despite the end of Pax Britannica and the steady decline of the Royal Navy as an institution, many British still reject connections with the European Union. In addition, its ability to sustain itself against Nazi Germany in World War II on its own lent weight to the notion that Britain could preserve its empire and status, separate from Europe. Hence, Britain did not join the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951. However, the post-war economic decline quickly change attitudes, and Britain began to be receptive towards furthering ties to the continent. In a 1975 nationwide referendum, 67% of the votes were cast in favour of Britain joining the European Economic Community, paving the way for British membership into the organisation (Wilson, S., 2014).

However, as the European Economic Community evolved over the years, forming into the European Union, and pursued greater regional integration, Britain’s resistance towards Europe began to manifest through various exclusions, most notably by refusing to adopt the Euro (€) (Wilson, S., 2014). Euroscepticism has also become more prominent over the years, shown through the 2015 General Elections, whereby UKIP (UK Independence Party), formed with the goal of leaving the EU, polling 12.6% of the popular vote (Bloomberg, 2015). This phenomenon was primarily observed in rural regions, which has seen little development or benefits from the EU in contrast with London, which reaped most of the benefits of the EU and became a global financial hub (Bateman, V.N., 2016).

In the 2015 General Elections, David Cameron campaigned for election on the promise that he would hold a plebiscite on British membership in the EU, in an attempt to secure eurosceptic votes (Raidió Teilifís Éireann, 2013). However, he had believed that the ‘Remain’ camp would emerge victorious. Yet, the result that followed proved the contrary, with ‘Leave’ winning by a narrow margin.

Points of Contention

European Institutions & Lawmaking (UC: Power and Influence)

Britain’s disconnect from Europe could be in part attributed to the lingering effects of imperialism in the British psyche. Back in the days of the British Empire, Britain was the dominant global trader, and its influence extended far beyond Europe and across the world (Langfitt, F., 2019). This became a vital campaigning point of the ‘Leave’ camp, which argued that Britain would enjoy greater trade benefits, by negotiating on its own without being bound by EU regulations (Vote Leave Take Control, n.d.).

The ‘Leave’ camp also cited the lack of British control over several governmental institutions as part of their campaigning rhetoric. Presently, several key European institutions have oversight in Britain, such as the European Court of Justice regulating taxes and immigration within the EU, and the regulation of the cat and dog fur trade by the European Commission (Ash, S., 2018). The European Parliament is also able to pass legislation throughout the European Union, including Britain.

Immigration and Border controls (UC: Interdependence)

The lack of British control over its customs also became a heated point of contention during the campaigning period. Within the Schengen Area*, individuals were able to pass freely through European borders, such as from France to Britain, without the need for customs checks. This resulted in many refugees who had sought refuge within European borders, either through border crossings in Greece or Italy, to enter Britain due to its superior living conditions.

In addition, the ‘Leave’ camp also cited the provision for European nationals to seek employment in Britain, who have been accused of competing for jobs with local residents. The ‘Leave’ camp cited a figure of close to ‘2 million’ European nationals entering in the past decade, and opined that many more would follow as ‘new, poorer countries join’ (Vote Leave Take Control, n.d.).

*The Schengen Area is the territory of countries, primarily within the EU, which have abolished immigration and customs checks, allowing for free and undisturbed passage between borders.


Ash, S. (2018, October 19). EU rules into UK law: How’s that going? BBC, Retrieved from

Bateman, V.N. (2016, November 23). Brexit: two centuries in the making. The UK in a Changing Europe, Retrieved from

Bloomberg (2015). The U.K. Election 2015. Retrieved from

Langfitt, F. (2019, March 17). U.K. Reflects On Identity As Brexit Saga Drags On. NPR News, Retrieved from

Margaret Thatcher Foundation (1988, September 20). Speech to the College of Europe (“The Bruges Speech”). Retrieved from

Raidió Teilifís Éireann (2013, January 24). David Cameron pledges EU referendum if Conservatives win next election. Retrieved from

Wilson, S. (2014, April 1). Britain and the EU: A long and rocky relationship. BBC, Retrieved from

Vote Leave Take Control (n.d.). Why Vote Leave. Retrieved from


The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Act is a topic that has sparked discourse and controversy among Singaporeans recently. Find out more in this issue of Periscope.

Written by: Sit Jie Ren (19-I4), Current Affairs Team

Designed by: Jo Yeoul (19-A2)


With the inception of internet penetration and new media in the 21st Century, the proliferation of online falsehoods and manipulative statements has become ubiquitous1 in recent years. This article will examine the various implications of deliberate online falsehoods, and discuss the recent legislation passed by the Singapore Parliament. Do use the Universal Concepts (UC) to guide you.


Fake news bring about wide-ranging ramifications to society. Firstly, it can be used to influence political sentiment. For example, in the recent Indonesian elections, online “buzzers” were used to spread fabricated information about some candidates  (Mokhtar, 2019). These misinformation attempts aimed to manipulate the opinions of voters in an appeal to sensitivities, with the potential to affect the outcome of elections, which clearly demonstrates the damage which fake news can potentially inflict on democracy, and politics as a whole.

In addition, fake news can also pose a cataclysmic menace to social cohesion and stability (Yahya, 2019). As Singapore has a racially diverse societal structure, fake news perpetuated with racial overtones could influence the mindsets of Singaporeans, and result in increased communal tensions.

Therefore, the government has recently implemented the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Act (POFMA), which seeks to grant the state new mechanisms to combat fake news.

Under this Act, any Minister of state may issue a direction to remedy false statements of fact online, which the individual issued with the direction may then appeal to the Minister. Should the Minister uphold his decision, the individual may then appeal to the courts. There are also other provisions under the bill which allow for the Minister to direct that the social media site or website to take actions to curtail the spread of fake news, restrict false accounts, as well as requiring internet service providers to block websites which fail to comply (Singapore Statutes Online, 2019).

Points of Contention

Who decides on what is false? (UC: Power & Influence)

However, the allowance for any Minister to decide on what constitutes a false statement of fact initially, as opposed to the judiciary has been highly controversial. This is provided under Section 10(1) of the bill, which states that any minister may issue a directive if (Singapore Statutes Online, 2019):

  • It is a false statement of fact being communicated in Singapore
  • It is for ‘public interest’

This is in contrast to the mechanism employed in other countries such as Germany (German Law Archive, 2017) where the government files an injunction2 to the courts, and the arbitration of truth is solely done by the Judiciary. Singapore’s involvement of the Executive while being more efficient in controlling fake news, could be seen as granting too much power and influence to the government.

However, the oversight by the government over free speech may not be welcomed by all. Opposition leader Pritam Singh recently said in Parliament that the law “gives broad latitude to the Executive to clamp down on what it deems to be even misleading statements which may not be false per se” (Sim, 2019). Many, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur3, David Kaye, also believe that Ministers should not be granted such overarching powers (Hakeem, 2019). In addition, several “broadly defined” clauses such as the definition of “public interest” in the act could result in the misuse of the law to stifle meaningful discussion and as a result, the freedom of speech (Channel News Asia, 2019). Thus, the implication of this law on freedom of expression still remains a contentious point of debate.

Free Speech vs Regulation of Falsehoods (UC: Beliefs & Values)

The dichotomy4 of free speech and regulation was clearly encapsulated in this recent legislation. Despite repeated assurances from the government that it will not affect freedom of speech (Tham, 2019), some concerns remain over the fact that the law provides for a third party to judge a statement of fact as false will, which could inadvertently result in a limitation on the freedom of speech (The Guardian, 2019).

However, it must be noted that the intent of the bill is aimed at preserving the values which our nation ascribes to, which Minister Shanmugam stated in the parliamentary debates (Mokhtar and Lim, 2019). These values have also been articulated in the 1991 “Shared Values White Paper” which stated that Singapore is a fundamentally Asian society, valuing collective interests over individual interests, which is said to have “strengthened social cohesion” (National Archives Singapore, 1991). Thus, it can be argued that the regulation of falsehoods could be deemed as a necessary evil in the preservation of our social cohesion, in spite of its implications on freedom of speech. Therefore, the beliefs & values of our society are imperatives5 in the intent of the legislation.


Ubiquitous1 – seeming to be everywhere

Injunction2 – an official order given by a law court, usually to stop someone from doing something

Rapporteur3 – someone chosen by an organisation to prepare reports of meetings or to investigate and report on a problem

Dichotomy4 – a difference between two completely opposite ideas or things

Imperatives5of vital importance; crucial

* Word definitions sourced from the Cambridge and Oxford Online Dictionaries


For more in-depth reading about this issue, feel free to access the following links.

Mokhtar, F. (2019, April 14). Fake news causing confusion in Indonesia presidential election. Today, Retrieved from

Yahya, Y. (2018, September 21). Select Committee on fake news: Singapore a target of hostile info campaigns. The Straits Times, Retrieved from

Singapore Statutes Online (2019, April 1). Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Bill. Retrieved from

German Law Archive (2017, September 1). Network Enforcement Act (Netzdurchsetzunggesetz, NetzDG). Retrieved from

Sim, F. (2019, May 7). Worker’s Party opposes online falsehoods Bill, says Pritam Singh. Channel News Asia. Retrieved from

Kaye, D. (2019, April 24). Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression OL SGP 3/2019. United Nations, Retrieved from

Channel News Asia (2019, May 1). NMPs propose amendments to draft online falsehood laws. Retrieved from

Tham, Y.C. (2019, April 2). Parliament: Law against online falsehoods will not stifle free speech: Shanmugam. The Straits Times, Retrieved from

The Guardian (2019, May 9). Singapore fake news law a disaster for freedom of speech, says rights group. Retrieved from

Mokhtar, F. and Lim, J. (2019, May 9). Laws to fight fake news passed, Worker’s Party rapped for opposing move. Today, Retrieved from

National Archives Singapore (1991, January 2). White Paper on Shared Values. Retrieved from

This is the link for the image used in the design. 

PERISCOPE: Summary on Streaming/ Banding

Have you heard of subject-based banding? Find out more about it in this issue of Periscope!

Are there certain current affairs issues that you specifically want us to cover? Fill in our feedback form here!

Written By: Ernest Tan (19-E6)

Designed By: Jo Yeoul (19-A2)


Just last month, it was announced that streaming in secondary schools would be replaced by subject-based banding, replacing the current status quo of streaming students into Express, Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) based on their PSLE results, allowing students to take subjects at different levels according to their abilities (Chia, 2019). In this installment of Periscope, we present a short summary on the key details of the streaming system so that Eunoians become more informed about the local educational landscape. Do use the Universal Concepts (UC) to guide you.


It is incontrovertible that Singapore’s education system can be considered crème de la crème, with Singapore students topping the prestigious global benchmarking test, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which is notably dubbed the ‘World Cup for Education’ (Davie, 2016). However, this seemingly exemplary education system is not without its shortcomings. Specifically, the streaming system in Singapore has been one of controversy, with the “unintended side effect” on how pupils view themselves and are perceived by others (Cheng, 2018). The newest changes, while commendable, may still not be able to eradicate these dire corollaries as many have hoped because the very nature of segregation is still existent. Some have also questioned whether this is simply a substitution of labels (Chua, 2019).

Points of Contention

The Ambivalent Nature of Streaming and Banding (UC: Beliefs and Values)

While the streaming system was intentioned to help some students of different aptitudes and abilities learn at their own pace efficiently, it has inevitably led to the self-limiting stigmatisation of students, especially those in the lower bands or streams (Cheng, 2018). However, former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Calvin Cheng has noted that streaming has reduced the drop-out rate, which has contributed to Singapore becoming an “educational powerhouse” (Mokhtar, 2019). It can be argued that how we view streaming is very much premised on our beliefs and values. From a utilitarian or capitalistic standpoint that values outcomes, streaming or banding might be desirable because of its more efficient outcomes (Ang, 2019). However, from a collectivist standpoint, it could be argued that streaming or banding is not desirable, because it does not allow students to progress collectively, and that it is cold of society to do so, because after all, education systems can be viewed as a reflection of societies’ morals and values.  

Discussion: In this day and age, do you think that the government should prioritise collectivism or utilitarianism?

The Education System and Inequality (UC: Systems, Structures and Freedom)

The streaming system may have also led to elitism and class segmentation, due to its systemic segregation of students. Statistics have shown that a disproportionate number of students in top schools come from affluent backgrounds and have well-educated parents. In top-tier Integrated Programme (IP) secondary schools, more than fifty-percent of students had parents who were university graduates while the figure was only about ten-percent for neighbourhood school students (Ng, 2011). As the streaming changes are not likely to affect the Integrated Programme Schools, there might still be an ideological cleavage or “class mismatch” because of the lack of interaction and stratification between students of different bands. Also, the differentiated networks at such schools may also lead to differential access to current and future connections and resources (Ng and Senin, 2019), resulting in greater inequality for students in the future.

Discussion: Research other countries’ education system and point out any systemic flaws in comparison with Singapore’s.


For more in-depth reading about this issue, feel free to access the following links.

Chia, L. (2019). Current approach to streaming in secondary schools to be phased out by 2024. Retrieved from

Chua, M.H. (2019). Streaming changes: Evolutionary, bold but not far enough. The Straits Times, Retrieved from

Davie, S. (2016). Singapore students top in maths, science and reading in Pisa international benchmarking test. The Straits Times, Retrieved from

Mokhtar, F. (2019). The Big Read: Streaming — the good, the bad and the ugly side of an outdated policy. Channel NewsAsia, Retrieved from

Ang, J. (2019). If not for streaming, many might not have made it through school, says principal. The Straits Times, Retrieved from

Ng, I.Y.H. (2019). Phasing out streaming: First step to decreasing educational inequality. The Straits Times, Retrieved from

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