Parliament: Proposals for law against human trafficking among 10 introduced in House

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher De Souza gives his opening address before the start of the Dialogue on the Prevention of Human Trafficking Bill held at the Ministry of Communications and Information on March 19, 2014. A PROPOSAL for a new
Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher De Souza gives his opening address before the start of the Dialogue on the Prevention of Human Trafficking Bill held at the Ministry of Communications and Information on March 19, 2014. A PROPOSAL for a new legislation to prevent human trafficking in Singapore was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, one of 10 Bills introduced in the House. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

A PROPOSAL for a new legislation to prevent human trafficking in Singapore was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, one of 10 Bills introduced in the House.

The Prevention of Human Trafficking Bill formally defines human trafficking, empowers specialist officers to investigate suspected traffickers, and sets out harsh penalties for those found guilty of trafficking or abetting such activities.

Singapore does not have dedicated laws against human trafficking, but outlaws sex trafficking of women and children through other legislation.

The human trafficking situation in Singapore has been kept under control through criminal laws and active enforcement, said Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah), who tabled the rare Private Member's Bill - which are proposed new laws or suggested changes to existing legislation made by MPs, rather than Bills introduced by the Government.

In a joint statement with the anti-trafficking taskforce spearheaded by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Manpower, Mr de Souza said that Singapore remains vulnerable to trafficking due to its status as a regional economic and transport hub.

The proposed penalty for trafficking is imprisonment of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of $100,000. Those convicted may also face up to six strokes of the cane.

Repeat offenders face jail time of up to 15 years and a maximum fine of $150,000, as well as mandatory caning of up to nine strokes.

On Tuesday, the Stop Trafficking SG activist umbrella group also submitted a petition, backed by 1,050 signatures from migrant workers and Singaporeans, for additional clauses in the Bill.

Their requests include protecting victims from prosecution for illegal immigration infractions, and giving them the right to continue working in Singapore while their cases are ongoing.

Another Private Member's Bill was also tabled to strengthen laws against cruelty to animals and set new standards on animal welfare.

The amendment to the Animal and Birds Act proposes that owners and persons in charge of animals take reasonable care of animals, and harsher penalties for offenders, said Mr Alex Yam (Chua Chu Kang GRC), one of six MPs behind the Bill.

Another Bill was introduced to start a fund to pay for the Pioneer Generation Package, which is estimated to cost just over $9 billion.

The Pioneer Generation Fund will receive a sum of $8 billion from this year's Budget. Together with interest, it will pay for the Package in full.

Also tabled on Tuesday are proposed amendments to the Income Tax Act to fight fraud related to the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme. It proposes stiffer penalties for those who inflate their claims of productivity-boosting investments to get more cash or tax deductions from the government.

All 10 Bills will be debated at the next sitting of Parliament.

charyong@sph.com.sg