'Falsehoods' can be quelled if government releases info early: Ong Ye Kung

SINGAPORE —Falsehoods, especially when related to issues like racism or xenophobia, can be quelled early if the government releases certain information, conceded Health Minister Ong Ye Kung in Parliament on Tuesday (6 July).

"I take to heart what the Leader of the Opposition (LO) said, that with information, we can quell such falsehoods, much earlier," said Ong, who was concluding the debate on the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) between Singapore and India.

While some data is classified, the Sembawang Member of Parliament acknowledged, "Some information is better to come out early, and then we can move on. And especially as you say when it concerns, issues like racism or xenophobia, it's much better to quell it early."

LO Pritam Singh, who is the Workers' Party chief, noted that there had been two previous parliamentary queries in the last five years, from WP and the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), about the number of intra-corporate transferees (ICTs) in Singapore. These are overseas employees at an MNC who have worked for at least a year in the company, before being posted to its Singapore branch.

Singh noted that the WP's earlier query arose from feedback on the ground about CECA and Indian nationals working in the country. "At that point, the reply that came was, the ministry does not disclose data on foreign manpower with breakdown by nationality, including data on ICTs," said the Aljunied MP, who added that this was followed by the PSP's query in February 2021.

On Tuesday, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng disclosed that there were 4,200 ICTs working in Singapore last year, about 500 of whom are from India.

While Singapore does not usually publish detailed statistics on its foreign workforce for foreign policy reasons, Dr Tan said the government had chosen to reveal some figures on employment pass holders in order to allay the damage from "misconceptions".

Singh noted, "The point I want to make to the government at large is, there is opportunity to quell, or at least to nip some of these issues in the bud, when they start moving into the realm of xenophobia, nativism and one important outlet for that is information.

"And so I hope the government understands that, with more information actually, we can hold the line better in terms of some of these discussions moving into a realm of xenophobia and so forth."

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