Wednesday, 4 October 2023

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ICA Needs to Strengthen Background Checks of Applicants Before Granting PR

By Raymond Lee –

Letter to The Editor

I read with amazement, The Straits Times report, “8th man sentenced in online vice ring case” (29 Sept, 2012), that the man in question, Wilson Oei, an Indonesian businessman sentenced in a high-profile online vice ring involving an underage prostitute, has just recently received his Permanent Residence (PR) status.  This case brings to mind a recent case involving Robert Stephen Dahlberg, a New Zealander who previously absconded while on court bail for an assault case committed at Suntec City. He too, received his PR while his case was in progress.  Then there is another recent case of Li Huabo, a low ranking Chinese official who invested S$1.5m to help him and his family gain PR. He was reported to have stolen the money from Chinese state coffers and he lied in his PR application by stating that he is a general manager of a certain company.

These cases bring forth the question of whether the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) which awards PR, has done a vigorous check on applicants’ backgrounds.  In the first 2 cases cited here, it shows the apparent lack of communication between different government ministries, in this instance, the Ministry of Home Affairs of which the ICA is a part, and the Ministry of Law.  The ICA needs to work closely with other government departments to ensure that applicants’ backgrounds are checked thoroughly.  For PR renewals, the ICA should also conduct proper checks before any  renewal is approved. For cases where PRs have gone afoul of the law, and specifically the 3 cases cited here, the public has the right to know whether the PR status of the offenders have been revoked.   

As the government has been issuing fewer PRs in response to public sentiments on immigration, it further heightens the need to ensure that only the truly deserving ones receive PRs. These 3 cases unfortunately do not assure the public that ICA has done its due diligence in assessing the worthiness of each PR application.

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