SINGAPORE: Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan "shows a lack of understanding of the nature of the problem", after the latter highlighted a need to tighten Singapore's immigration policy in response to the arrests of eight radicalised Bangladeshi nationals.
Dr Chee had on Wednesday said the detention of the Bangladeshi nationals under the Internal Security Act (ISA) points to the need to tighten the country's immigration policy. He called on the Government to deal with the problem at its "root cause" by halting the inflow of more of such radical elements.
Said the SDP secretary-general: "That starts at the ICA, and this is I where think the lax immigration policy is. You let in hundreds and thousands - millions - you got to be asking yourself: There cannot be people there who are not properly vetted. And this is where I'm saying - the Government must pay more attention to this problem right now.”
To this, Mr Shanmugam told reporters that radicalisation is sweeping through the world and the Southeast Asia region, and this is an issue in Europe, in the United States, Africa and many parts of Asia.
"You have 1,000 people who have gone from Indonesia and Malaysia to fight in the Middle East. You have large numbers of people, hundreds, who have been arrested in Indonesia and Malaysia for radicalisation. You have Singaporeans who have been detained in Singapore for radicalisation," he said.
"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?"
Mr Shanmugam noted there are several tens of thousands of Bangladeshi workers in Singapore, and who are in the construction sector, working for town councils, as cleaners and other sectors.
"So what do we do? Send them all back? Who is going to do their jobs? And also, construction sector, you send them back, who suffers? Singaporeans will lose their jobs too," the minister said.
Mr Shanmugam added: "These are serious matters, security issues, they require careful consideration, proper thought, and I think we really all should just avoid making or taking cheap shots and political opportunism."