Singapore: Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing has said that the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with India does not grant Indian nationals unconditional access to Singapore or its immigration privileges.
Claims that the bilateral agreement has cost job opportunities for Singaporeans aim to stoke fears in times of economic uncertainties, said Chan on Saturday.
The minister’s comments came after an expletive-laden video surfaced online, showing a former Indian national lashing out at a security guard at the Eight Riversuites condominium, a posh residential complex.
Police said Ramesh Erramalli, who is now a Singapore citizen, was being investigated for “intentionally causing harassment to a security officer”. The incident happened during Diwali.
The video, which showed Erramalli hurling vulgarities at the security guard over a condominium rule requiring guests to pay SGD10 for parking after 11 pm, attracted much criticism from Singaporeans. Erramalli has since apologised to the security guard.
Falsehoods relating to the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) haqve also surfaced, Channel News Asia said in a report.
Among these was the claim that the CECA has allowed Indian nationals to take PMET (professional, managerial, executive and technician) jobs away from Singaporeans.
Minister Chan has clarified that all FTAs, including the CECA, place no obligations on Singapore with regard to immigration.
“Indian professionals, like any other professionals from other countries, have to meet MOM’s (Ministry of Manpower’s) existing qualifying criteria to work in Singapore. This applies to Employment Pass, S Pass, and work permit,” the channel quoted Chan. The passes carry varying status with conditions for employment in Singapore.
“Second, CECA does not give Indian nationals privileged immigration access. Anyone applying for Singapore citizenship must qualify according to our existing criteria,” stressed Chan.
Contrary to claims that Singaporeans have lost out on PMET jobs, Chan pointed out that the country’s network of the FTAs has, in fact, increased these jobs by 4,00,000 to 1.25 million since 2005.
More than half of the Singapore labour force is made up of PMETs.
While Chan acknowledged that economic uncertainties have created anxieties over job security, he asserted that perpetuating fear, is not the right response.
“We understand, and we share Singaporeans’ concerns with competition and job prospects in the current uncertain economic environment. But the way to help Singaporeans is not to mislead them and create fear and anger,” said Chan.
“The way to help Singaporeans is to make sure that first, we expand our markets for our enterprises. Train our workers constantly to stay ahead of competition. Never allow others to stoke the fears and racial biases of our people. Never do this for selfish personal or political reasons,” he added.
Chan said that the ministry is aware of companies that have breached fair hiring practices and will weed them out to protect Singaporean workers and businesses.
Erramalli obtained his citizenship under the Family Ties scheme as he is married to a Singapore-born citizen, said the ministry.
On Friday, the authorities also clarified that educational qualifications of Erramalli were not falsified.
There had been online allegations, based on Erramalli’s purported LinkedIn account, that his qualifications were not legitimate.
In response to media queries, the ministry and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority said on Friday, in a joint statement, that they found “no evidence” to substantiate these allegations after looking into Erramalli’s qualifications.
The ministry said it has barred around 3,700 foreigners from working in Singapore due to fake educational qualifications in their work-pass applications between 2015 to September this year.
Of these, 83 foreigners were convicted for false declaration of educational qualifications. Such deceptions are illegal under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, and those found guilty can be jailed for two years, fined up to SGD20,000, or both, said the ministry.
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