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.