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RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Deputy Head of Litigation & Dispute Resolution Practice Nandakumar Renganathan featured in TODAY

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s Deputy Head of Litigation & Dispute Resolution Practice Nandakumar Renganathan was quoted in TODAY article titled “Google indicates it will apply for permit for next year’s Pink Dot event”.

The article was first published in TODAY on 22 October 2016.

Google indicates it will apply for permit for next year’s Pink Dot event

Source: 2016 © Mediacorp Press Ltd.

Date: 22 October 2016

Author: Valerie Koh

SINGAPORE — At least one regular sponsor of the annual Pink Dot event at the Speakers’ Corner, Google, has pledged its commitment to the event, by indicating that it would apply for a permit next year.

“We’ve been proud supporters of Pink Dot since 2011 and we will continue to show our commitment to diversity and inclusion. So, we will apply for a permit to support Pink Dot in 2017 if required by this new regulation. We hope that these new rules will not limit public discussion on important issues,” said a Google spokesperson on Friday (Oct 21).

Several of the 18 sponsors for this year’s event — including Bloomberg, Apple, Twitter and BP — declined to comment on the changes to the Public Order (Unrestricted Area) Order 2016, which will come into effect on Nov 1.

The amendments, announced by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday, made it clear that foreign entities have to apply for a permit before “sponsoring, publicly promoting … or organising its members or employees to participate” in Speakers’ Corner events.

A spokeswoman for JP Morgan, which has been sponsoring Pink Dot since 2013, said the bank is committed to promoting equality in the workplace, and encouraging a “supportive and inclusive” culture.

“We believe in providing a work environment for our employees that is safe and free from discrimination regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation,” said Ms Li Anne Wong, declining to share whether the bank will apply for a permit next year.

Lawyers told TODAY that the changes announced by the MHA were a reflection of the Government’s long-standing stance against foreign influence on domestic matters.

Veteran lawyer Amolat Singh said: “It doesn’t come as something shocking, abrupt or out of the ordinary. It’s really an extension of the law we already have.”

Although some might frown upon the changes, they fortify “the principle that Singaporeans must speak up”. “Some of these foreigners might have their own agenda to run”, he added.

On Friday, the MHA also made clear the distinction between Singapore and foreign entities. It defines a Singapore company as an entity incorporated under the Companies Act here, controlled by a Singaporean majority.

This distinction closes a loophole in the law, under which multinational corporations could argue that they are Singapore entities, simply because they have subsidiaries incorporated or registered locally, said Singapore Management University (SMU) law don Eugene Tan.

“The second requirement under the new rules is that these entities have to be majority-owned by Singapore citizens — I see it as clarifying,” said Associate Professor Tan.

The definition of a Singapore entity is consistent with other areas of the law, such as the Political Donations Act, said SMU’s Assistant Professor of Law Jack Lee.

Moving forward, Mr Nandakumar Renganathan, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s deputy head (litigation and dispute resolution practice), urged companies to have clear guidelines on employee participation in such events.

“To be safe, companies should make it clear that their employees should not use the company’s name as sponsors or supporters of such events, without the company’s consent from its management,” he said.

Lawyers noted that should a foreign company run afoul of the law, its senior management is the one that is likely to be held accountable.

Citing the flouting of tax regulations or employment laws, Mr Singh said that company directors are often the ones taken to court.

Mr Nandakumar felt that management committee members, managers or chief executives could also be held responsible. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NEO CHAI CHIN.