An application by historian Thum Ping Tjin and freelance journalist Kirsten Han to register an overseas-funded company in Singapore has been rejected by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).
Thum and Han had intended for the company – OSEA Pte Ltd – to be used in organising activities such as “democracy classroom” sessions and workshops, according to media reports citing an ACRA statement.
ACRA said on Wednesday (11 April) that it had turned down the application as the business would be “contrary to Singapore’s national interests”.
“The purposes of the proposed company are clearly political in nature,” said the authority, which also noted that the pair were informed of the rejection on the same day.
“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,” said the authority.
Thum and Han had filed their application in February, with the former listed as the OSEA’s director and Han in the role of editor-in-chief.
The plan for OSEA was for the company to be a wholly owned subsidiary of the UK-based Observatory Southeast Asia Ltd (OSEA UK) – a business that, according to ACRA, is out to “promote the universal values of democracy, freedom of the media, and freedom of inquiry, information and expression”.
OSEA UK had received a grant of some $100,000 from the Foundation of Open Societies Institute (FOSI), a Swiss charitable organisation closely associated with the Open Society Foundations (OSF).
ACRA noted that the OSF – founded by US billionaire investor George Soros – was “expressly established to pursue a political agenda the world over, and has a history of involvement in the domestic politics of sovereign countries”.
While OSF and FOSI are free to fund causes elsewhere, the authority said that such groups cannot be allowed to “fund Singaporean organisations or individuals participating in our domestic politics”.
Last month, Thum and Han appeared separately to testify before the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods.