ISA arrests ‘point to need to tighten immigration’

ISA arrests ‘point to need to tighten immigration’
Dr Chee Soon Juan conducting a walkabout around Bukit Batok central on May 4, 2016. Photo: Ernest Chua
Published: 2:05 PM, May 4, 2016
Updated: 12:41 AM, May 5, 2016

SINGAPORE — The recent detention of eight radicalised Bangladeshis here under the Internal Security Act (ISA) points to the need to tighten the Republic’s immigration policy, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan said on Wednesday (May 4) morning.

Speaking to reporters after a walkabout in Bukit Batok, where he is vying to become the ward’s Member of Parliament, Dr Chee called on the Government to deal with the problem at its “root cause” by preventing more of such radical elements, which endanger Singapore society, from entering the Republic’s shores.

He was responding to questions from reporters about the Bangladeshis’ detention under the ISA, which he had spoken against previously on human rights grounds.

On Tuesday, the Home Affairs Ministry revealed that the eight Bangladeshi workers had formed a terror cell here aimed at bringing their homeland under Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate. It is the second reported case involving radicalised individuals from the Bangladeshi community here.

Responding, Dr Chee did not mention the SDP’s stance on the ISA, but said the Government has been “lax” in its immigration policy by taking in large numbers of foreigners. “You let in hundreds of thousands, millions … there must be people there who are not properly vetted,” he said.

The Government must “get it at the root cause” and prevent such situations “even before they come in”, he said, adding that if he was elected, he would raise questions on the vetting process with Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam.

Asked about Dr Chee’s comments, Mr Shanmugam, who was speaking to reporters about the detentions on Wednesday afternoon, said they showed “a lack of understanding of the problem”.

“So what does Dr Chee suggest? That we say no to all foreign workers? Or we say no to all foreign workers who are Muslim? I think (you) should clarify that. There are tens of thousands of Bangladeshi workers in Singapore, several tens of thousands. They are in our construction sector, working for our town councils, large numbers as cleaners ... So what do we do? Send them all back? Who is going to do their jobs?” said Mr Shanmugam.

“After (the attacks in) Paris, after Jakarta, after all these arrests, they still say abolish the ISA and that all of these are immigration issues ... these are serious matters, security issues that require careful consideration and proper thought ... We should stop taking cheap political shots and political opportunism.”

When further queried about its stand on the ISA, SDP central executive committee member Paul Tambyah reiterated the need to address the “root of the problem” and the Government’s “unfettered immigration policy”.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) corrected Dr Chee’s interpretation of employment data during his rally on Tuesday, calling it “alarmist”.

Dr Chee had said only 100 jobs were created for locals last year. The MOM said the figures he referred to — local employment — did not refer to the total number of new jobs taken by locals.

Local employment refers to the difference between total number of locals entering jobs and those leaving jobs, for example owing to retirement. They also pointed out that the difference was 700 last year, not 100.