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Efforts to protect and defend Singapore’s social cohesion

11 Apr 2019 2 min read

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A key area of focus for the Singapore Police Force will be to defend Singapore’s social cohesion, particularly in the areas of racial and religious harmony, said Minister for Law and Home Affairs Mr K Shanmugam.

Speaking at the Police Workplace Seminar on 11 April 2019, Mr Shanmugam said racial and religious relations are always fragile in Singapore. He noted that many countries are struggling with identity politics, which has also led to the rise of Islamophobia and white supremacy movements.

“If we do not take care, (race and religious relations) rupture, all of Singapore suffers… And police know this. (They) can never take racial, religious harmony for granted,” said Mr Shanmugam.

Separately at a dialogue session with lawyers on 9 April 2019, Mr Shanmugam clarified that those who deliberately fabricate and spread news will be liable to face criminal charges under the proposed Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act.

“There might be one person who deliberately puts the falsehood out, and then there might be thousands who spread it. The Bill doesn’t seek to impose criminal penalties on the thousands who spread the original post, as many people do, without knowing the truth. So, they don’t have to be concerned,” he said.

The draft law also allows ministers to order corrections or removals of online falsehoods. On this, Mr Shanmugam was asked if it would be more practical to have an independent committee to review online falsehoods, instead of government ministers.

In response, Mr Shanmugam said that unlike ministers, who have domain knowledge of their ministries, such a committee would not be politically accountable. “If a minister makes a decision, he can be accountable in Parliament. He can be brought to court and he has to justify this decision,” he pointed out.

Mr Shanmugam also reiterated that left unchecked, online falsehoods can have serious consequences in the real world. He said, “Ultimately, the Government is responsible. You have got to correct these things and then stand or fall by your decision.”

Image Credit: Singapore Police Force Facebook