The ruckus regarding the Maintenance of Religious Harmony (Amendment) Act (MRHA) brought 23 MPs raising issues on how the law will be carried out with Workers’ Party Pritam Singh questioning its appropriate application.
With the forthcoming modifications, Pritam was of the opinion that under the Act, ministers and the Cabinet will have considerable powers, thus, the clarity in which it will be applied and the neutrality that must be shown by the government is of utmost importance.
He warned against the general public seeing religious leaders alongside politicians, which may potentially create and ferment tension within religious groups and between religious adherents of varying political persuasions.
He also highlighted that all political leaders should be mindful of how their involvement in religious events, such as large-scale prayer events or any gatherings may have huge effects, especially during the run-up to the general election.
Pritam added that the state has to ensure it can remain as a neutral arbiter in matters on faith.
Pritam stressed that “As we enter the 4G era, this House must ensure that the public space continues to be secular and safe space for all Singaporeans regardless of creed.”
Mr Shanmugam also noted religious bodies such as PERGAS (Singapore Islamic Scholars & Religious Teachers Association) and the NCCS (National Council of Churches of Singapore) had previously voiced opposition to matters such as the building of casinos and the approval of online gambling, without being censured.
“I don’t think we can completely deny them (religious organisations) the right to express some views on some pieces of legislation,” he said, noting however this had to be done without being partisan and political.
The changes to the 27-year-old Act – aimed at allowing the Government to deal more effectively with issues such as the growing influence of social media and the threat of foreign religious interference – were passed on Monday (Oct 7). -/TISG