Foreign workers reminded of Singapore's tough stand on incitement to violence

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

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

An advisory issued by the authorities this month, amid concerns over the spike in radicals inciting violence online following recent terror incidents in France, reminded them that such incitement will be dealt with swiftly and sternly.

The note, which has been translated into Bengali, Tamil, Mandarin and Bahasa Indonesia, also cautioned them against importing foreign politics, and asked them to approach their dormitory manager, employer or religious leaders for counselling should they be affected by incidents abroad.

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

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam told reporters yesterday that while there is concern about foreigners using Singapore as a base for agitating violence abroad, "we ought not be looking at every migrant worker as a potential terrorist".

"The number who cross the line are the minutest fraction," he said.

"Most of them are here for an honourable purpose. They are trying to feed their families back home, who are in very poor circumstances. Their main focus is to do an honest day's work, get an honest day's wage."

Foreign workers were also advised against making any remarks, including posts and comments online, that may offend or encourage ill will against any race, religion, nationality or group.

Dr Rohan Gunaratna, professor of security studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the threat in France has created a momentum for protests and attacks elsewhere.

"This call is radicalising and mobilising vulnerable segments of Muslims worldwide," he said, noting that attacks in Austria and Saudi Arabia show ideological extremism has translated into violence.

Singapore has responded preemptively to disrupt the heightened threat from breaking out into violence, he added, saying "the global threat is likely to manifest in Asia and persist until Christmas and the New Year".

Fabian Koh

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2020, with the headline Foreign workers reminded of Singapore's tough stand on incitement to violence. Subscribe