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K Shanmugam: Police to continue to protect Singapore’s racial and religious harmony, guard the country’s social cohesion

"The reason why we are relatively crime-free and safe is because our society in itself is law-abiding. It is built on a number of principles, and it is harmonious," said the Law and Home Affairs Minister




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Singapore—The country’s Law and Home Affairs Minister, K. Shanmugam, said on Thursday, April 11, that the Singapore Police Force (SPF) will keep defending racial and religious harmony, in order to preserve the nation’s social cohesion.

Mr Shanmugam was speaking at the 2019’ Police Workplan Seminar, emphasizing that nations today are having difficulty due to “identity politics” and “fractured relations between communities.”

He cited the recent massacre in New Zealand, wherein 50 people were killed and almost as many injured when a gunman opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch. Mr Shanmugam said, “if it can happen in New Zealand, it can happen anywhere in the world. One of the last places you would expect a terror attack in is New Zealand.”

The Law and Home Affairs Minister pointed out that identity politics and broken relations between communities have, “led to predictable trends. The rise of Islamophobia, white supremacy movements and of course, radical Islam, political Islam, with its own creed.”

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Therefore, social cohesion is all the more important, he said.

“For us, our social harmony and the way we have structured society underpins our peace, progress, and prosperity. And it underpins the way in which our Police work because if the crime rates were very different, if society was fractured, Police’s tasks would become much more difficult.

“The reason why we are relatively crime-free and safe is because our society in itself is law-abiding. It is built on a number of principles, and it is harmonious. Therefore, the limited amount of crime that takes place is within our ability to deal with effectively, and overall we maintain peace.”

Racial and religious relations are always fragile. If we do not take care, they rupture and all of Singapore will suffer. And the Police know this, that we can never take racial-religious harmony for granted.”

Mr Shanmugam also talked about social media, and how the police force is conscious of how “insensitive attacks on social media, on race and religion, can go viral” and can cause people to react with strong emotions. The Police have had to step in and intervene in such matters.

He gave two examples of this.

“So in 2018, for example, we had a 36-year-old lady, whose Facebook comments were making insinuations, attacking one race against the other, and claiming oppression. It went viral, many from other races jumped in, and it was quickly becoming an issue between races – bitter and divisive.

When she returned to Singapore, the Police investigated and gave her a warning – which is how we deal with most of these things.

We had a couple of young women who were praying in a fire escape stairwell. The building security told them to move to a room to pray because that particular area was a fire escape stairwell and they couldn’t use that, and there was a designated prayer room that they could go to.

They were not happy and they made serious allegations based on the race of the security officer. The Police investigated, advised them, put out the facts so everybody knows you are not being prevented from praying; there’s a place, there is a prayer room.

You don’t block the staircase set aside for a fire escape, because other things can happen. If there is a fire, then there will be a problem. So Police will continue to play this role.”

Mr Shanmugam also talked about how 2018 had been a “tough year from an operational perspective” for the Police, but nevertheless, it had been a “satisfying” year.

2020 will be the Police’s Bicentennial. The Minister made mention of this as well. “Next year, 2020, is going to be a very significant year for the Police. It marks 200 years in which the Police have been in Singapore, and have done what they do well.

“The Singapore Police Force has come a long way. I think few organisations in Singapore can claim such a long, unbroken, proud heritage. The Singapore Police Force today, survey after survey, is among the most trusted institutions in Singapore.”

Read related: Racial and religious prejudice in any form must be prevented, says Shanmugam


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