Shanmugam: Officials won't hesitate to tackle hate speech

MPs observing a minute's silence in Parliament yesterday for the victims of the March 15 Christchurch shootings. Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling said the recent attacks in Christchurch and the Dutch city of Utrecht have un
MPs observing a minute's silence in Parliament yesterday for the victims of the March 15 Christchurch shootings. Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling said the recent attacks in Christchurch and the Dutch city of Utrecht have underscored the need for people to unequivocally reject and counter extremist ideology and rhetoric.PHOTO: GOV.SG

The authorities will not hesitate to take action against speech that is hateful or offensive, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said in Parliament yesterday, in a 90-minute speech on Singapore's approach to tackling hate speech.

But he warned that the Government cannot accept any community's view on all issues, saying it will make "practical" decisions from a neutral standpoint.

"We have to assess where the weight of mainstream opinion lies. And we cannot be directed by the viewpoint of a person or persons who are extremely sensitive," he said.

"Really, the approach has to be guided by common sense."

Mr Shanmugam also said Singapore is prepared to "risk overreacting" to preserve harmony among its different races and religions.

Singaporeans also should not take the existing good relations among the different communities for granted, he stressed.

"Our current racial and religious harmony didn't fall ready-made from the sky. It is not part of the natural order of things," he said.

"We engineered this over many decades. People accuse us of social engineering. 'So what?' I asked."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2019, with the headline 'Shanmugam: Officials won't hesitate to tackle hate speech'. Print Edition | Subscribe