Controversial socio-political issues in Singapore should be left to Singaporeans: Shanmugam

Controversial socio-political issues in Singapore should be left to Singaporeans: Shanmugam

Foreign entities are unlikely to get approval to fund or support Speakers' Corner events that deal with controversial social and political issues, the Home Affairs Minister said.

SINGAPORE: Controversial social and political issues in the country should be discussed and dealt with by Singaporeans, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said on Friday (Oct 21). "Foreigners cannot play a role in that," he added.

Earlier in the day, the Home Affairs Ministry had said that foreign entities will need a permit before they can fund or support events at the Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park.

This comes after the ministry said in June that it would take steps to make it clear that foreign entities should not fund or support events held at Speakers’ Corner, including the annual Pink Dot gathering in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

"What we have been observing is that foreign participation in socio-political issues, controversial issues, relating to Singapore was increasing, so we needed to make that clear," Mr Shanmugam told reporters on the sidelines of an appreciation dinner for Volunteer Special Constabulary officers.

On Friday, MHA also said it was extending existing exemptions for Singapore citizens in applying for permits to fund or support events at the Speakers' Corner to Singapore entities such as local companies and non-governmental organisations.

"Speakers' Corner is for Singaporeans to articulate views, particularly when it comes to social and political issues. The foreigners can take part in the events with a permit, but we will have to look at the kind of events," Mr Shanmugam said.

The Home Affairs Minister said that the authorities would "try to be accommodating" when it came to approving permits for foreign entities, "unless it is really something that has the potential to really rile up opinion on both sides" or "causes where Singaporeans are sharply divided in their opinions".

He also stressed that the authorities were not making a stand on these controversial social and political issues by regulating foreign support of Speakers' Corner events.

"The fact that we reviewed the rules and making it clear that Singaporean entities can support the event sets our stand," he said.

"We are neutral in terms of what people can discuss or which side people take, or which side of the argument people are supporting or against ... Where we're drawing the line is Singaporeans versus non-Singaporeans."

Asked if there will be a penalty for foreign companies that go ahead and sponsor the events in Speakers' Corner without a permit, Mr Shanmugam said it would be a "breach of law" and hence, an offence.

Source: CNA/mz