“The former assistant director of NTUC’s Membership Partnership & Alliance, Amy Cheong, has been revealed to be a Singapore Permanent Resident holding an Australian citizenship.” (Asia One)
Prior to the now infamous incident where Ms Cheong made racist rants against the Malay community, I was talking to a friend about how things may turn out if foreigners – who themselves do not engender much love from Singaporeans – were to make racist remarks about any of our racial groups. It could potentially ignite a very serious storm indeed.
Xenophobia and racism make for a very troubling tinderbox.
So, when Amy Cheong’s rants happened, I – as with most people – thought she was a Singaporean – only to find out later that she is in fact not Singaporean. But by then, the storm had calmed down somewhat.
Still, this is something which the authorities should be mindful of.
There have already been skirmishes and even altercations between Singaporeans and foreigners. However, as far as I am aware, Amy Cheong is the first foreigner to make racist remarks about a Singaporean racial group. What is concerning is whether other foreigners share her same mentality about our races, especially the minority races.
It is something which we should pay attention to.
Will the authorities be willing to take such foreigners to task for racial slurs, as they have done to Singaporeans who behave such?
Amidst all this talk about integrating foreigners, we should not forget that integration is not just about integrating foreigners with Singaporeans – it is about integrating foreigners with the many aspects of being Singaporean, such as our cultural traditions, our religious practices, and the peculiarities or idiosyncrasies, if you like, of our different races too.
It is not just about tolerance. In fact, that would be the worst thing to encourage. Better to encourage interaction, promote understanding, and deep appreciation for one another.
Amy Cheong is a sign that integration is not an easy thing to do. What troubles me personally is the government, in recent weeks, insisting that we need even more people in Singapore, through immigration.
As with the casinos, where the government scrambled to install measures to prevent social fall-out from them after the casinos were operational, I wonder if our government is ready to handle the racial tensions and potential fall-outs from its extreme immigration policies.
Unlike the casinos, you cannot deal with racial problems by implementing an entrance fee, or a black list, after the fact.
And in recent years, the government has also reacted – rather than prevented or pre-empted – problems from its immigration policies. How sure are we then that it will be able to handle even more serious racial problems between foreigners and Singaporeans if they ever emerge, again?
This perhaps is the most important question arising from the Amy Cheong saga.