Singapore—In the wake of a hate crime last Friday (May 7) when a 55-year-old Singaporean-Indian woman was kicked in the chest and called racial slurs, racism and xenophobia were discussed in Parliament on Tuesday (May 11).
Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam issued a warning that Singapore would fail should such harmful actions and attitudes be allowed to flourish.
He also added that Indians in Singapore could be targeted for hateful acts.
“The lady who was attacked has been a citizen for 25 years. If we go down this route, eventually all Indians can be a target of hate,” the Minister is quoted in CNA as saying.
The minister was asked by Mr Murali Pillai (PAP-Bukit Batok) to weigh in on “the security situation arising from this racial incident connected with the pandemic”.
The Bukit Batok MP also asked what measures authorities are taking.
Mr Shanmugam noted that the incident is under investigation, but seems to be racially motivated based on what the victim has said. This is in keeping with racist incidents in other parts of the globe, the minister added, and said that these hate crimes should be condemned.
This is not the first time Singapore has had to deal with racism, but the country has been able to handle it in the past.
He added, “Around the world, economic pressures have led to populism and the populists have been seeking political profit by exploiting people’s fears over jobs and economic insecurity, blaming foreigners, blaming immigrants, for all of their country’s problems.”
He acknowledged Singaporeans’ concerns over foreigners taking over local jobs, which he said has been fuelled by practices that discriminate against locals.
“It is a minority who behave like this, but it naturally makes Singaporeans unhappy.”
Additionally, there have been some who have been “deliberately stoking the fears, encouraging racism and xenophobia, and dog whistling”, which is “dangerous for Singapore”.
“Because first, it will be the expat Indians. Then, it will come to Singaporean-Indians.”
He added that not all of those who commit racists acts will be able to tell the difference between Singaporean-born Indians and those who aren’t.
Mr Shanmugam invited all MPs to condemn the “open expression of racism”, adding that there have been several canards about CECA, promoted by a whispering campaign.”
He mentioned Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai of the Progress Singapore Party by name. In the past, Mr Leong called for a review of the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).
The NCMP clarified later that neither he nor the PSP are xenophobic, but “We are just stating the economic effects (that) some of these free trade agreements have had on our economy.”
As for the Workers’ Party chief, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh, he also made it clear later that “There is no place for racism in Singapore – no ifs, no buts.”
Follow us on Social Media
Send in your scoops to firstname.lastname@example.org