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Those not charged or convicted can be stripped of citizenship: Lawyers

SINGAPORE — The Government has the power to strip a naturalised citizen of his citizenship, if it is satisfied that the person had engaged in activities harmful to public safety and order, even if he is not charged or convicted in court.

Gaye Alassane, could be stripped of his Singapore citizenship for his involvement in global match-fixing. TODAY file photo.

Gaye Alassane, could be stripped of his Singapore citizenship for his involvement in global match-fixing. TODAY file photo.

SINGAPORE — The Government has the power to strip a naturalised citizen of his citizenship, if it is satisfied that the person had engaged in activities harmful to public safety and order, even if he is not charged or convicted in court.

Lawyers and law academics raised this point while commenting on the case of former S-League player Gaye Alassane, 43, who was served a notice on “proposed deprivation of citizenship” on Thursday (Dec 7).

Pending any appeal, he would lose his citizenship for being “an active and trusted member” of an international match-fixing syndicate. Alassane, who was born in Mali, became a Singaporean in 2003.

The Home Affairs Ministry (MHA) said in a media statement that he is subjected to a Police Supervision Order. Those placed on this order have to observe curfews and travel restrictions, and report regularly to the police, among other measures. Flouting these restrictions could result in a jail term.

Lawyer Amolat Singh explained that a person does not need to be brought before court for his citizenship to be stripped away. In some cases, because the person is tied to a powerful syndicate, no witnesses or whistleblowers may come forward to offer evidence for the crimes, he added.

The MHA said that for Alassane’s case, “witnesses were afraid of testifying against (him) and his syndicate members in open court for fear of reprisal”.

Thus, an important factor is not so much whether or not the person was hauled to court, but if the activities are detrimental to public safety, peace or good order, lawyer Edmond Pereira said.

A naturalised citizen can also have citizenship withdrawn if it was obtained fraudulently or granted by mistake.

The MHA told TODAY that 1987 was the last time it took away the citizenship of a naturalised citizen because the person engaged in activities that went against “the interests of Singapore’s public safety, peace and good order”. He had committed various serious offences including drug trafficking, it said without identifying the person.

In 2013, then-Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean told Parliament that 16 people had had their citizenship recalled for various reasons since 1987, under Articles 129 and 130 of the Constitution.

Singapore Management University’s law don Eugene Tan noted that such occurrences are uncommon, “because the consequences to the person concerned are severe — becoming stateless”.

In reviewing citizenship status, the MHA takes into consideration factors such as the nature and severity of the act, and whether the person’s activities have breached public peace, or affected Singapore’s essential services, or was prejudicial to national security or public order.

“Every case will be considered carefully before a decision is made,” its spokesperson added.

Once a decision is made to invalidate the citizenship, the person would be served a notice and has 21 days to file an appeal. He will remain a citizen throughout the appeal process, which will be referred to a Citizenship Committee of Inquiry.

If the appeal is denied, or if the person does not file an appeal within 21 days, he would lose citizenship and be rendered stateless.

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