Greater clarity needed on what constitutes a foreign entity

As a general rule of thumb, only Singaporeans should be involved in domestic politics and only Singaporeans should determine the path that Singapore will take ("'Foreign entities should not fund Speakers' Corner events'"; Wednesday).

While it is easy to classify an individual who is a non-Singaporean and a non-permanent resident as a foreign entity, and thus should not be allowed to interfere in Singapore's politics, how do we classify multinational corporations that are based here and incorporated here?

According to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore's (Iras) definition, these corporations are tax residents and are subject to Singapore's tax laws.

This, in Iras' eyes, makes MNCs residents and not foreign entities. This would also suggest that it is not illegal for them to play a role in domestic issues that may include controversial social issues.

If MNCs that are incorporated and based in Singapore are considered foreign entities because of their links overseas, should non-governmental organisations, charities and religious bodies that are incorporated in Singapore, but are overseas chapters or maintain strong links overseas - such as Focus on the Family Singapore - be treated in a similar fashion?

Would their activities or sponsorships that interfere in Singapore politics and key domestic issues be curtailed and be made illegal?

The Ministry of Home Affairs needs to provide residents in Singapore greater clarification on what and who it considers to be a foreign entity.

It also needs to be even-handed in assessing not just corporations, but also NGOs, charities and even religious bodies, to determine whether or not they are foreign entities.

Han Ming Guang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2016, with the headline 'Greater clarity needed on what constitutes a foreign entity'. Print Edition | Subscribe