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MHA COS 2019: Protecting Singapore from Emerging Threats
Three things you should know about emerging threats to Singapore’s safety and security.

Home Team News COS 2019 Cover 01
GRAPHICS: Home Team News

At the Committee of Supply (COS) Debate in Parliament on 1 March 2019, Minister for Home Affairs Mr K Shanmugam noted that while public trust and confidence in the Home Team remained high, our Guardians will have to focus on two major emerging challenges. Here are three things you need to know about these threats to our safety and security.  

Home Team News COS 2019 Min IG 1

1. Emerging Threat #1: Foreign Interference in Domestic Politics

Foreign interference can take different forms from the use of concerted disinformation campaigns to influencing domestic politics. These share a common goal – to damage social cohesion, erode trust in the Government and undermine our sovereignty. 

The consequences of foreign interference are stark. In recent years, hostile disinformation campaigns have been used to weaken countries’ resolve in times of conflict or tension between states. Foreign actors have attempted to undermine democracy and elections in a number of jurisdictions.

Speaking in Parliament on 12 February 2019, Senior Minister of State for Law Mr Edwin Tong noted that similar campaigns had been carried out against the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands and, closer to home, in Australia and New Zealand. 

Foreign interference poses immense dangers to countries, and Singapore may be a target because of our diversity, openness and online connectivity. The warning signs are clear – at the same Parliamentary session, Mr Tong noted a spike in social media posts by anonymous avatar accounts in December 2018. These were critical of Singapore’s position on various issues. 

Home Team News COS 2019 Min IG 2

2. Countering Foreign Interference
What can we do to protect ourselves? 

Early detection and exposure are critical. We must be able to act nimbly and keep up with new, digital-age tactics. As countries such as Australia and Germany enact laws to prevent foreign interference, Singapore will study their experiences.

Apart from strengthening laws, Singaporeans should also be discerning and resist foreign interference. 

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3. Emerging Threat #2: Threats to Religious Harmony
When it comes to matters of race and religion, Singapore enjoys a remarkable degree of harmony, one that's based on mutual respect and which has been painstakingly built up over decades. In his COS Speech, Minister Shanmugam stressed the need for us to maintain religious harmony in the face of trends that may undermine it. 

The threat is real. With a resurgence of identity politics around the world, people may turn inwards and reject diversity. The Internet has also allowed hate speech to spread further and faster. To counter these dangers, Minister Shanmugam shared four things we can do as a community: 

1. Continue to build a Singaporean Identity; preserve and grow our common spaces and experiences. That’s our uniquely Singaporean way, after all. 

2. Maintain a separation between politics and religion. We have to balance the right to religious freedom with the need to ensure harmony, peace and security. 

3. Preserve our culture of mutual respect. One’s individual religious practices shouldn’t interfere with someone else’s rights.

4. Reach across religious lines to keep conversations open. Let’s continue to talk to one another and build trust among our communities.

Further measures will be taken on the legislative front; as Minister Shanmugam noted, Singapore will also be reviewing the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act to strengthen our efforts to preserve religious freedom and inter-religious harmony.

MHA COS 2019
- Read the COS Speech delivered by Minister K Shanmugam.
- Visit MHA’s COS webpage.

© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Desmond Ang
  2. 01 March 2019
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