An application by historian Thum Ping Tjin and freelance journalist Kirsten Han to register a company has been rejected on the grounds that the registration would be contrary to Singapore’s national interests.
The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) said yesterday that the purposes of the proposed company, OSEA Pte Ltd, “are clearly political in nature”.
OSEA Pte Ltd, it said, has links to foreign funding from a group led by billionaire George Soros, which was set up to pursue a political agenda the world over.
Acra noted that OSEA was to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of a British-registered company called Observatory Southeast Asia (OSEA UK).
OSEA UK has received a grant of US$75,000 (S$98,000) from a Swiss charitable entity, Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI), said Acra.
FOSI is closely associated with Open Society Foundations (OSF), founded and led by Mr Soros, it added.
Singapore’s politics should be for Singaporeans alone to determine. We should not allow foreigners to interfere in how we should govern our country. Nor should we allow any group of Singaporeans to lend themselves to being used by foreigners to pursue a political activity in Singapore.
In a statement, the authority said that what happens in other jurisdictions is not the concern of the Singapore Government.
“OSF and FOSI, and other foreign philanthropies and groups, can fund whatever causes they like elsewhere,” it said.
“In Singapore, however, our position is that none of them can be allowed to fund Singaporean organisations or individuals participating in our domestic politics. The registration of OSEA Pte Ltd would therefore be contrary to Singapore’s national interests.
“Singapore’s politics should be for Singaporeans alone to determine. We should not allow foreigners to interfere in how we should govern our country. Nor should we allow any group of Singaporeans to lend themselves to being used by foreigners to pursue a political activity in Singapore.”
Acra said an application was made to register OSEA Pte Ltd on Feb 8. Dr Thum – a research fellow and coordinator of Project Southeast Asia at the University of Oxford – was cited as its director and Ms Han its editor-in-chief.
Its proposed activities included organising discussion fora, workshops and other events in Singapore, such as “Democracy Classroom” sessions.
Another of its objectives was to provide editorial services to a website named New Naratif, which both are involved in.
Acra said New Naratif has been publishing articles “critical of politics” in the region, such as articles claiming that certain governments are using violence to maintain political control, had manipulated events or framed them for political gain, and have “rigged” their electoral systems.
“The purposes of the proposed company are clearly political in nature,” said Acra.
Currently, OSEA UK owns and manages the New Naratif website, said the authority.
Dr Thum and British researcher Philip Kreager are listed as its directors and shareholders on the British government’s company registry. Both men are trustees of Oxford’s Project Southeast Asia.
Acra said one of OSEA UK’s stated objects is to “promote the…