Singapore — A Facebook post asking for help to find a missing teenager, believed to be of Indian descent, stirred up a hornets’ nest. Some “needed to know if he was a citizen or a PR”, some asked if he was a “CECA child”. Others condemned the unkind comments and expressed concern for the boy.
The 16-year-old went missing at Bukit Batok on Feb 16. An appeal was posted on the Facebook page, Singapore Forum, on Feb 17 saying: “Young Indian boy missing.. help find him.”
That led to queries about his nationality and whether he was a “CECA child”.
CECA stands for India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement. It is a free trade agreement between India and Singapore signed in 2005. It promotes collaboration in education, science and technology, intellectual property and aviation, and allowed Indian professionals in information technology, medicine, engineering and financial fields to work in Singapore.
Some citizens were against this agreement as they believed Indian professionals were “stealing jobs, and crowding out the job market”. CECA was thus a sensitive topic for many who believed it put them at a disadvantage.
Some said they would help to find the boy only if he was a “true blue'” Singaporean.
The comments originated from a Facebook group called Abolish CECA Petition. The issue was highlighted by a Reddit user who appealed against xenophobia and racism.
It’s hard for some to commiserate with Singaporean Indians when we sound the alarm on the racialisation of anti-foreign sentiment. Some think it’s “SJW whining”. But xenophobia can absolutely be a vessel for racism. It’s happening in real time, and we need it to stop. He’s a Singaporean kid. from r/singapore
The Facebook group Abolish CECA Petition was created in August 2020. However, this issue was originally ignited during the 2019 Hong Lim Park event criticising CECA. There has been anti-CECA sentiment ever since the agreement was signed in 2005.
Nonetheless, there were many kind-hearted citizens who expressed concern for the missing 16-year-old. They pointed out that regardless of the person’s nationality or race, he was still a minor, and should not be attacked by netizens.
Users on Reddit were very critical of the behaviour of those on Facebook. They expressed displeasure at the attitude of the commenters towards the missing boy. One even noted that some of the profiles used to comment were fake.
Denise Teh is an intern at The Independent SG. /TISGFollow us on Social Media
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