Criticisms of government’s rules on travel should not be confused with Singapore’s obligation under CECA, said Benjamin Ong.
The rights of Singapore citizens and permanent residents (PRs) to enter Singapore from anywhere in the world, including India, have nothing to do with Ceca or any other free-trade agreement (FTA), Benjamin Joshua Ong wrote in an op-ed that was published by Today.
“These rights stem exclusively from Singapore law,” wrote Mr Ong who is an assistant professor of law at the Singapore Management University’s Yong Pung How School of Law.
“Under Article 13(1) of the Constitution, Singapore citizens have an absolute right to enter Singapore, no matter where in the world they are travelling from,” Mr Ong said. “It would be unconstitutional to deny Singapore citizens entry into Singapore for any reason,” he added.
“Further, under section 9(1A) of the Immigration Act, it would be unlawful for the Government to bar a Singapore PR with a valid re-entry permit from entering Singapore (except on the narrow grounds of public security),” Mr Ong wrote.
The assistant law professor was responding to sentiments expressed by some who have sought to blame the spread of the B1617 strain of Covid-19 in Singapore on the arrival of persons from South Asian countries, including India.
Referring to the misconception that Ceca requires Singapore to allow foreigners (persons who are not Singapore citizens or PRs) to enter Singapore from India, in spite of the pandemic, Mr Ong said that this was untrue.
While Chapter 9 of Ceca obliges Singapore to allow certain categories of citizens and PRs of India to enter Singapore for certain periods, he said that this obligation is not absolute.
He pointed out that this obligation is subject to Singapore’s right to impose “measures relating to public health and safety and national security”. (Articles 9.4 and 9.5 allow Singapore to decide on, and impose, other conditions — for example, that the grant of work passes to foreigners be subject to the Fair Consideration Framework, which requires employers here to consider Singaporeans fairly for jobs.)
“In short, whatever criticisms one may have of the Government’s rules on travel from any part of the world into Singapore, those rules have nothing to do with Singapore’s obligations under Ceca or, for that matter, any other FTA,” Mr Ong said.
“The economic merits of any FTA may certainly be open to debate, as may the issue of whether the rules on foreigners entering Singapore sufficiently protect public health. But the two issues should not be confused,” he stressed.