Foreign workers reminded of Singapore's zero tolerance stand on inciting violence

Police officers from the Emergency Response Team on patrol at the Toa Payoh HDB Hub on Nov 11, 2020.
Police officers from the Emergency Response Team on patrol at the Toa Payoh HDB Hub on Nov 11, 2020.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Foreign workers in Singapore have been reminded that anyone who incites violence, even on social media, may be jailed, fined and banned from entering Singapore indefinitely.

This message was given in an advisory issued by the Ministries of Home Affairs and Manpower and the police early this month, amid concerns over the spike in radicals inciting violence online following recent terror incidents in France.

The advisory, which has been translated into Bengali, Tamil, Mandarin and Bahasa Indonesia, reminded the workers that any use or suggestion of violence will be swiftly and sternly dealt with according to the law in Singapore.

It cautioned them against importing foreign politics here, and asked them to approach their dorm manager, employer or religious leaders for counselling, should they be affected by the incidents abroad.

It also urged the workers to report to the authorities anyone they know who is involved in violent extremist activities.

The escalating calls for violence online were spurred by the beheading of a teacher in Paris on Oct 16, when an 18-year-old Muslim killed him in retaliation for showing a controversial picture of Prophet Muhammad to his class.

Almost a fortnight later, on Oct 29, three people were knifed to death by a 21-year-old Muslim man at a church in the south-eastern French city of Nice. One of the elderly victims was beheaded.

The incidents attracted attention across the world and people were urged on social media and other media platforms to retaliate, the authorities noted in the advisory.

"Singapore, being an open country where access to media is easily available, is not insulated from these influences of extreme and violence-connotated discussions," they said.

But it strongly advocates harmonious living among people of different faiths and nationalities, they stressed.

The foreign workers were also reminded that as they reside and work in Singapore, "any use or suggestion of violence, in response to the development in France or in any other countries, will be swiftly and sternly dealt with within the laws of the country".

Singapore, the authorities reiterated, has zero tolerance for any acts of violence, and anyone who engages or incites violence, even on social media or the Internet, may be jailed, fined and banned from entering Singapore indefinitely.

They advised the foreign workers not to make any remarks, including posts and comments on the Internet and social media, that may offend or encourage ill will against any race, religion, nationality or group.

The workers were also urged to stay away from extremist activities, whether in or outside the dormitories. And they were advised not to take part in or organise activities related to the incidents in France.

"Do not import foreign politics into Singapore. For example, organising a protest, rally or openly displaying your support for foreign politicians, organisations or movements without approval from the Singapore authorities is against the law and will be sternly dealt with."

Foreign workers who require counselling can approach their dormitory managers, employers, ambassadors and the religious leaders in the dormitories.

They can also contact the religious teachers of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) on 1800-774-774-7 to seek advice.

Launched in 2003, the RRG is a non-profit group that trains religious teachers to counsel those influenced or have been misguided by radical teachings. It also conducts workshops on countering extremist ideology in schools and mosques.

The authorities urged the foreign workers to inform their employers or dormitory managers immediately, or report to the police on 1800-255-0000 or the Internal Security Department on 1800-2626-473, if they know anyone involved in violent extremist activities.