Ex-NMP Calvin Cheng suggests possible use of ISA on commentators who cross 'red lines'

Person typing on keyboard (Photo: Getty Images)

Former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Calvin Cheng has called on the government to closely watch commentators such as poet and playwright Alfian Sa'at, who he says spout "irresponsible rhetoric".

In a note posted on his Facebook page on Thursday, Cheng, a media and fashion entrepreneur, said, "People like Alfian Sa'at for example need to be careful of their irresponsible rhetoric, which allege racial discrimination against our Malay-Muslim brethren.

Calvin Cheng's Facebook post (Facebook screengrab)

"At the best of times, these allegations should be carefully considered. With ISIS (Islamic State) stoking the flames worldwide and seeking to radicalise Muslim minorities everywhere, they should tread even more carefully about inciting racial and religious disaffection.

"The Government should watch commentators like Alfian Sa'at closely and if red lines are crossed, the use of the ISA (Internal Security Act) on these domestic agitators should not be ruled out."

Alfian is an active social and political commentator in Singapore. He has long maintained that there should be open discussion about racial privileges and Malay discrimination in sectors like the army.

Cheng, who was an NMP from 2009 to 2011, was making his comments in light of the recent news that two Singaporeans youths have been detained under the ISA for terrorism-related activities. One of them, a 19-year-old, had planned to join ISIS in Syria, and if he was unable to join them there, strike here in Singapore.

"The self-radicalisation of the ISA-detained youth by ISIS propaganda is worrying. We need to be acutely aware of the seductive messages behind these terrorist groups, as everywhere, they prey on the feelings of Muslims with promises of glory and power under a revived caliphate," Cheng said.

"In countries where Muslims are minorities, ISIS propaganda takes advantage of feelings of insecurities, fabricate lies that they are being oppressed and then thereafter persuade them to commit acts of violence against their alleged oppressors, all under a twisted version of Islam," he noted.

Legal action

Cheng's post drew strong responses from commenters, among them Alfian himself, who replied on Thursday night, "This is a complete inversion of what I stand for -- if you have the remotest idea of my stand on things you would know how I have always championed a secular framework in Singapore -- which has led to various fractious debates with ISIS fanboys."

Alfian Sa'at's reply to Calvin Cheng's Facebook post (Facebook screengrab)

Alfian, who shared that he lost his mother last week, said, "I am giving you 24 hours to remove this post or retract your allegations or I will initiate legal action."

Cheng replied, "I am not removing the post and I don't need 24 hours. If you want to initiate legal action I am waiting. Go ahead."

Aflian shot back, saying, "Look Calvin, the danger to social harmony in Singapore is racism denialists like you, not people who point out instances of racism or majoritarian tendencies."

Cheng then clarified, "I have not said you are responsible for the radicalisation of youths nor have I said you are an Islamic extremist. I am saying that allegations of racism should be made very carefully. Especially when there are organisations like ISIS trying to take advantage of people who think they are being oppressed."

Facebook exchange between Calvin Cheng and Alfian Sa'at in the comments section of Cheng's post (Facebook screengrab)