Xenophobia – where are the opposition parties and opinion leaders?

The episode about the so-called “curry incident” is the latest to surface where Singaporeans take umbrage at foreigners’ behaviour towards locals. The seething anger among Singaporeans whenever such incidents happen can be traced to their unhappiness towards the government’s immigration and foreign talent policies.

Minister for Law, K Shanmugam, is the latest to try and calm things down. (See CNA report here.)

Various ministers have also urged Singaporeans not to take out their anger on foreigners.

But the government’s exhortations continue to fall on deaf ears, especially when it is its policies which are seen to be at the root of the unhapinness.

As I said in an earlier article, I am concerned that such sentiments towards foreigners may spill over one of these days into something more serious. What also disappoints me is the lack of bloggers who will speak out against xenophobia. Perhaps they are afraid of being “on the wrong side” of the blogosphere, or that they will be targeted themselves.

Even leading bloggers have not said anything to help the situation.

One must distinguish between the policies and the people, between the immigration and foreign talent policies and the people who these policies enable to come to Singapore.

They are two separate issues.

I see the PRCs (Chinese nationals) who work the night shift in 24-hour foodcourts and I appreciate that they are here because of the better prospects, the better potential to earn some money and help their families survive back in the homeland. And I see nothing wrong with this. Indeed, at times I am touched by how hard they work.

But I also know that for every one of them, a Singaporean is deprived of the opportunity to do the job.

But that does not mean I blame it on the PRC or take it out on him or her.

I blame it on the policy.

And that is an important distinction to make, which many seem not to.

Xenophobia is poisonous – to our society, for it breeds hatred and if left unchecked can manifest into violence. My concern is that there are already signs of this.

Thus, I feel that opinion leaders – at whatever levels – have a responsibility to speak out against such sentiments. And in this, I feel the opposition political parties – particularly the Workers’ Party – must say something about this to persuade Singaporeans not to resort to violence.

I am pointing out the Workers’ Party for several reasons:

1. It has stated very clearly that it intends to be the government one day. So, I’d like to see it offer help in dealing with this seething and simmering xenophobia.

2. It had the widest support in the recently-concluded general election.

3. It has 6 elected MPs and 2 NCMPs in Parliament.

I hope the party will issue a statement and urge Singaporeans – whether online or offline – to be sensible and not resort to any illegal or violent means to vent their anger and frustration at certain policies and people they are unhappy with.

Indeed, I am also urging all opposition parties, NGOs, and opinion leaders to do the same. When it comes to matters like this, it is not the government’s job alone.

Xenophobia, like racism, has no place in a civilised society.

If we support such sentiments and fan the flames, we are no better than those whose policies we blame.

Indeed, we would be worse than them.

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3 thoughts on “Xenophobia – where are the opposition parties and opinion leaders?

  1. Why point out WP? All parties should be involved in making a stand for Singapore and against xenophobia.

    Moreover WP did not say they want to be THE government one day. from what I read, they said they will work towards building an alternative team and that one day there may be a coalition government.

  2. While I’m generally against xenophobia, I have to say I’m increasingly beginning to shift my stand. Although I do agree there is a sizeable number of foreginers seeking out better prospects and a better lives for themselves (and believe me, they DO work extremely hard – just look at construction workers from Bangladesh; who will honestly be willing to do what they do for such a meagre salary of $400-$500?), my main gripe is against two groups of foreigners, namely the ones considered ‘FTs’ and the ones who refuse to adapt.

    First off, let’s start with the FTs eh? The difference between a foreign worker and a FT is that the FT doesn’t do a labour-intensive or lowly-paid job; he does an Exec level job. He gets paid a huge sum of money, and most of the time, an apartment (sometimes landed property) and a car is provided for him. He’s brought in because it’s deemed that Singaporeans aren’t skilled/experienced enough to take on such an appointment. While it may be true for some cases, is it really still relevant in most cases today? Singapore prides itself on the standard of education here. Our universities constantly brag about being amongst the top in the world. Indeed, NBS and NUS offer one of the world’s best MBA programs and is constantly ranked accordingly. So why is it that despite the fact that our universities are churning out mostly local business graduates with a solid business degree, several management positions are constantly held by these FTs?

    JTC’s petrochemical industry was first set up in the 1970s. Back then, locals only held blue-collar jobs at the refineries, while the management was a purely foreign one, because it was deemed that locals couldn’t manage the plant efficiently considering that it was a spanking-new industry to Singapore. 40 years on, management is still mostly FTs. Are they trying to say that locals haven’t been able to adapt to the industry and take on leadership roles, even after 40 years?

    Secondly, my gripe is with foreigners who refuse to adapt. The chicken curry debacle, the countless number of foreign students in our universities insulting local students, the PRC scholar in NUS who called Singaporeans ‘dogs’….the list goes on. After my national service, I had about 6 months before university started, so I chose to work at Brewerkz (a restaurant/bar). It was while I was working that this realisation kicked in. Local guests were mostly very friendly and treated me and the rest of the servers with a lot of respect, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ with every sentence. The expats I served (mainly the Asian ones; Caucasian ones were very friendly too. It’s no wonder people say Caucasians get taken care of better), however, treated the servers like a lower grade of life form, barking their orders at us and talking to us very rudely. Some even called us over and shouted at us when the food took “too long” to come out (considering we’re a restaurant, it’s expected that you’ve to wait about 20 mins for your food; don’t expect it out in 5 mins, we’re not McDonald’s). After that, they would start whining about how service and the culture in Singapore sucks. Trust me, I’m not exaggerating when I say this: I heard it almost on a daily basis. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who works/has worked in F&B; they’ll tell you similar stories.

    I am a citizen of Singapore. I have defended my country by serving my national service. I will be living the rest of my life in Singapore. I appreciate foreigners who come to Singapore in hopes of a brighter future and work hard to ensure it. I don’t appreciate foreigners who come into the country that I’ve defended and other fellow Singaporeans are currently defending, mock our citizens, demean our culture, and expect the country to change for them. It makes you wonder who you’re really defending. Xenophobia is a poison, but so is standing in silence while foreigners reign over citizens. I don’t expect the opposition to take a stand against xenophobia. On the contrary, I expect them to stand up for Singaporeans.

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