MDA did 'right thing' to shut down TRS as racial and religious harmony most important: Yaacob

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information says the most important thing is to preserve racial and religious harmony in Singapore and there is enough evidence to show that The Real Singapore had caused racial unhappiness. --
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information says the most important thing is to preserve racial and religious harmony in Singapore and there is enough evidence to show that The Real Singapore had caused racial unhappiness. -- PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

SINGAPORE - Singapore's racial and religious harmony must be preserved, and it is for this reason that action was taken on The Real Singapore (TRS) website, said Minister of Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.

"Since 1996, we have only had 27 interventions. We've never shut down a site so we do this very, very carefully," said Dr Yaacob on Sunday.

"But once you cross the line, and in this case they have, and we have enough evidence to show that all the materials are very egregious and they can actually cause a lot of racial unhappiness... we have to move."

The minister noted that the Internet was very wide and very big, "but at the end of the day, I think the most important thing for us is to preserve the racial and religious harmony that we have in Singapore".

"If you do business in Singapore, you target the Singapore market, we hope you'll behave accordingly... This is the signal that we want to send," he said.

"We are not against the Internet but there are also other things that we want to preserve in Singapore."

The Media Development Authority (MDA) had earlier explained its decision to shut down the site saying that TRS had published material that was "objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public order and national harmony".

Noting that at least two out of TRS' three known editors are foreigners, the agency added that the site "sought to incite anti-foreigner sentiments in Singapore" and to "make profit at the expense of Singapore's public interest and national harmony".

The move came a month after two of the editors behind TRS - Singaporean student Yang Kaiheng, 26, and his Australian girlfriend Ai Takagi, 22 - were charged with sedition for publishing articles that allegedly promoted ill will and hostility between different races or classes here.

Last Monday, Yang was granted permission to leave the country to visit his father who had a stroke. Out on $60,000 bail, he will have to return from Australia by May 17, a day before his next court appearance.

Dr Yaacob added that he is "confident that MDA has done the right thing and it is above board".

He added that they will continue to investigate the other "clone sites" that have been set up since TRS went offline,

Dr Yaacob, who is also the Minister in-charge-of Muslim Affairs, was speaking on the sidelines of a Mendaki event where he had visited 10 families who have benefited from the Malay self-help group's outreach efforts in the heartlands.

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg