Thoughtless remarks, careless words can undo racial harmony: Minister, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Thoughtless remarks, careless words can undo racial harmony: Minister

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Minister says S'pore must fight hate speech, extremist ideology and foreign interference

Thoughtless remarks and careless words that go viral instantaneously can easily undo racial harmony and disrupt the multicultural society in Singapore, said Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo yesterday .

Highlighting a recent incident where the police were falsely alleged to have targeted Malays during their enforcement checks at MRT stations, Ms Teo said such baseless allegations stir up racial tensions and damage people's confidence in the Home Team.

"We must redouble our efforts against hate speech and attempts to break our social cohesion," said Ms Teo. These remarks were made by Ms Teo amid an ongoing controversy over a rap video, widely criticised as racist, by YouTube entertainer Preeti Nair and her brother Subhas Nair.

They made the video in response to a "brownface" advertisement to promote e-payment website which featured Mediacorp actor and DJ Dennis Chew portraying characters such as a woman in a tudung and a man with visibly darker skin.

Ms Teo was speaking to a group of Home Team officers and volunteers gathered for the annual Home Team National Day Observance Ceremony.

"We will update the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act, to strengthen our levers against elements that may harm our religious harmony," said Ms Teo.

The minister, in her remarks, also outlined two other security challenges for Singapore - extremist ideology and foreign interference.

There were also the security risks associated with Singapore's open borders, said Ms Teo, citing the incident last month where Myanmar nationals were deported after they were found to have organised and gathered support for armed violence against the Myanmar government.

"Events like these do not mean that we should close our borders, but we need to be vigilant to who is allowed to stay here. Our hospitality should not be exploited to the detriment of our people," she said.

Ms Teo told the gathering as 2019 marked Singapore's Bicentennial, the team behind the event pondered and consulted people over important questions such as what Singaporeans believe defined them as a people.

"No two persons had exactly the same views but there were common traits identified," she said.

These included Singapore's openness to people, trade and investment, multiculturalism which undergirds the national identity, and the belief that self-determination has bound Singaporeans to be masters of their own fate.

"These traits continue to be important for our survival and success, but they also point to the challenges we face," said Ms Teo.