Singapore warns foreigners to obey its laws

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 May, 2013, 3:12pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 May, 2013, 4:02pm

Singapore on Wednesday issued a stern warning to foreigners to abide by its laws, after Malaysians arrested for staging an illegal protest had appealed for leniency.

“Foreigners who break the law in Singapore should be prepared to face the consequences, including having their visas or work passes revoked,” the foreign and interior ministries said in a joint statement.

Twenty-one Malaysians in the city-state were arrested on May 11 after they staged an illegal protest in Singapore following disputed elections in their neighbouring homeland.

They had gone ahead with the protest at a park along Singapore’s popular Marina Bay promenade despite police warnings not to repeat a demonstration held on the same spot three days earlier by some 100 Malaysians.

That initial rally coincided with a mammoth protest in Kuala Lumpur by the Malaysian opposition, which claims it was robbed of victory in the May 5 parliamentary elections through fraud.

The protesters were subsequently released on bail, but three of them had their work and visit passes revoked by the Singapore authorities.

Police said that the work passes of the 18 others were also being reviewed.

“It is clear that some of the Malaysians who participated in the two illegal gatherings at Merlion Park deliberately ignored repeated warnings that the protests were illegal,” said the government statement on Wednesday.

It also criticised the protesters for approaching opposition lawmakers in Malaysia to petition for leniency on their behalf.

“Their actions to involve foreign parties are attempts to seek special treatment and to further politicise what is essentially a domestic law and order issue in Singapore,” the statement said.

“Singapore does not interfere in the domestic matters of other countries. In turn Singapore will not tolerate outside forces interfering in our internal affairs.”

Under Singapore’s Public Order Act, organisers of illegal protests can be jailed for up to six months or fined S$10,000 ($7,900). They can also be both jailed and fined. Participants can be fined up to S$5,000.

Malaysia’s high commissioner to Singapore Hussin Nayan told AFP after the arrests that it expected Malaysians overseas to abide by the laws of their host countries.

“Singapore is within its rights to take actions against the protesters, according to its own rules and regulations,” he said.

Singapore was ejected from the Malaysian federation in 1965 after a brief union between the two former British colonies, but they are bound by strong economic, political, cultural and family links.