Wednesday, June 20, 2007

MHA Response: Abdul Basheer Case

The Permanent Secretary's office in the Ministry of Home Affairs has responded to an article I wrote.

I welcome the clarification from Ministry of Home Affairs and thank the Permanent Secretary's office for this opportunity to learn.

By doing so, the Ministry of Home Affairs has answered some questions I raised about Abdul Basheer's detention some days ago, "Was this the pivotal factor or could there have been other more compelling reasons? What really prompted a promising spark of Singapore's ethnic minority community to focus on such causes?"

I had questioned, as opposed to speculated, "if Abdul Basheer could have become attracted to radical ideology because of discrimination at the workplace, frustration with the lack of opportunities to make one's mark on society or dissatisfaction with a poor quality of life".

The Ministry of Home Affairs has replied, "Our investigations do not show that any of these possible factors influenced Abdul Basheer to become radicalised...Different factors attract different people to radical ideology."

But I found these words in the final paragraph of their reply intriguing: "In Singapore, there is no justification for anyone to become radicalised because of workplace discrimination, lack of opportunity or quality of life. Nor should these alleged shortcomings of Singapore society be used to rationalise and explain away the actions of those who have been led astray."

I haven't made up my mind yet on these words and I can only ask more questions about the direction these words are taking.

Is the Ministry of Home Affairs directing how the press should be reporting the matter?

Or is the Ministy of Home Affairs saying such "alleged shortcomings of Singapore society" should not be discussed in the context of alleged terrorist activities?

Or by saying "in Singapore, there is no justification for anyone to become radicalised because of workplace discrimination, lack of opportunity or quality of life", is the Ministry of Home Affairs expressing its hope or aspiration about "radicalisation" vis-a-vis what one faces in society?

On a related note, I understand from some sources that directions were issued to the press about not publishing Abdul Basheer's photograph or naming the schools Abdul Basheer had been to; this is particularly because there were concerns that persons resembling Abdul Basheer or from his past schools would be stereotyped or discriminated in some manner.

While this is a sensible request, it hasn't stopped at least one newspaper in this country from disclosing the schools. Perhaps, this reflects a press that is clearly capable of applying its own independent mind to a sensitive situation.

Finally, I wish to note that, even with this reply, Abdul Basheer's side of the story has not yet been heard. And I remain hopeful about one day finding the answers to the other questions raised about Abdul Basheer's case.

Thank you, again, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?

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