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K Shanmugam: Students wanting to take part in causes need to “learn how to identify charlatans”

The Home Affairs minister urged young people to gain knowledge about world affairs, how different political systems work, Singapore's history, and how the balance between state power and individual autonomy is struck in different societies.

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More than knowing and understanding their rights, youths need to learn how to spot deceivers and “how to identify charlatans, those who promise the world and deliver nothing,” Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said in Parliament yesterday.

Recognising the chaff from the grain is important so that young people can act decisively, responsibly, and within legal boundaries when pursuing political and social causes

Additionally, the Home Affairs minister urged young people to gain knowledge about world affairs, how different political systems work, Singapore’s history, and how the balance between state power and individual autonomy is struck in different societies.

Mr Shanmugam, who is also the Law Minister, agreed that it was important for students to know their rights and responsibilities.

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The exchange comes in the wake of a debate on the cancellation of a Yale-NUS College course about dissent and resistance.

Earlier, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung addressed MPs’ worries, which range from academic freedom to rules for off-limit topics in autonomous universities.

Associate Professor Theseira also wanted to know if the Ministry of Home Affairs regulates or monitors political activities of student groups.

Mr Shanmugam said his ministry’s agencies focus on those who engage in activities that endanger national security.

Citing an instance in which a 17-year-old Singaporean who had planned to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was arrested, Mr Shanmugam said that did not mean the agencies monitor all 17-year-olds.

“We do not and we cannot, and we are unable to monitor all of them,” he said.

Prof Theseira noted that Mr Ong had listed groups of individuals that academic institutions should not work with, for example, those who had committed public order-related offences or have shown disloyalty to Singapore.

He asked Mr Shanmugam if that also meant student groups would not be allowed to engage with such individuals.

The minister replied that such individuals do not ipso facto become security risks.

“If they do become security risks, they will be monitored,” he added. /TISG

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