Thursday, January 19, 2017

A ridiculous interpretation and implementation of the POHA law

Have you heard about POHA? It is the Protection from Harrassment Act. It was passed in 2014. It criminalizes harassment, stalking, and other anti-social behaviour. The law is designed specifically to make acts of cyberbullying and online harassment a criminal offence.

Dr. Ting Choon Meng held a patent for a mobile medical clinic. He sued the Ministry of Defense for infringement of his patent. He lost his suit. 

He aired his grievance in an interview with a social blog, The Online Citizen (TOC). Mindef stated that his video interview contained a few false statements and bought a case against him and TOC under POHA. Mindef won the case in the court. 

Dr Ting and TOC appealed against this ruling on the grounds that POHA was never intended to cover the Government as an aggrieved party. The appeals court ruled in favor of Dr Ting and TOC.

The Law Minister, Mr Shanmugam, said that when POHA was passed, it was the government's intention that it should it should protect the Government as a "person". If this was the intent, why was this point not made clear in the law? 

Before the law was passed, the minister was asked in Parliament if it the "person" include the government or a corporate entity. He gave a vague answer - the "person" will be interpreted in accordance with other statutes. What exactly does this mean? Why can't the law be made clear?

Even if the law intended that the Government should be allowed access to this law as a "person", is there a need for Mindef to take protection under this law? Surely they have the resources to seek redress without using this law?

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