Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Response to "Leaving Our Internal Security Back Door Wide Open"

Earlier this week, I came across a post, written by Dr. Chee Soon Juan, which argued that the sizable presence of foreigners, particularly those who are working here, in Singapore is a potential security risk. He also argued that one way to mitigate this risk is to effect better screening of foreigners before they are allowed to work here in Singapore.

While I can somewhat agree that the influx of foreigners into Singapore has resulted in social tensions which need to be better managed, I cannot help but find Dr. Chee's suggestion of putting in place better screening of foreigners simplistic and wrong-headed (and perhaps somewhat "Trump-ish").

Dr. Chee argues that Singapore needs to "do a better job at screening those who wish to come into Singapore to work". But what exactly does he mean by "better job at screening"? That the authorities require every foreigner (expatriates, domestic helpers, labourers and et cetera) wishing to work in Singapore to complete security clearance forms and be thoroughly vetted before they are allowed to work in Singapore? The amount of effort, time and resources necessary would be tremendous, I would imagine. And the amount of effort, time and resources expended would likely only marginally improve our security situation. Better that the effort, time and resources be expended on initiatives of greater efficacy.

Dr. Chee cites the possibility of nationalistic Chinese nationals causing trouble within Singapore. So are we to reject foreigners who express nationalistic sentiments? How are the authorities supposed to screen for nationalistic sentiments?

Dr. Chee also cites again the example of radicalised Bangladeshi foreign workers who were recently arrested in Singapore. Correct me if I am wrong but I believe most of these Bangladeshis were radicalised after they arrived in Singapore and not before. So how would pre-emptive screening have helped? And I suppose the authorities would already have a list of dangerous individuals who are denied entry into Singapore.

It also seems strange to me that while many have criticised Denise Phua's reference to foreign workers as "walking time-bombs", not many appear to object to Dr. Chee's reference to foreign workers as a potential security risk.

In the end, while Dr. Chee's argument might be appealing on the surface, it is simplistic and erroneous in my opinion. He may dispel counter-arguments as straw man arguments but it is because his position is unclear and lacking in details that straw men are easily constructed out of it.

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