Singapore — The family of a runner who has been representing the country in athletic competitions since he was a teenager, Thiruben Thana Rajan, was the recent target of racism after they were featured on a National Day banner.
Mr Thiruben, now 20 and a national athlete, had to face comments regarding the colour of his skin and his heritage, to the point that he had to clarify in an Aug 2 Instagram post that he and his siblings “were born and bred here” and his parents moved to Singapore more than 30 years ago from Malaysia.
“I myself have been representing singapore in athletics since i was 15 years old. i don’t think i have to say much more than that,” he added.
And while there were many unkind comments, there was also an outpouring of support from many netizens, some of whom praised him for the way he handled the racist backlash.
Even high-profile figures, including the Workers’ Party head and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh, dropped by his page.
Radio presenter and host Joakim Gomez, fellow runner, marathoner Ashley Liew, and actor Eswari Gunasagar also voiced their support.
The young runner’s MP, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah, paid a visit to Mr Thiruben and his family and shared a photo on her Facebook page.
She wrote that her fellow Tanjong Pagar MP Alvin Tan, had denounced the racist remarks against Mr Thiruben’s family, but more than that, a letter of support was written to Mr Thiruben and his family by his neighbours and fellow residents of Tiong Bahru Seng Poh Estate.
“We stand with you against racism, race-baiting, xenophobia and ignorance,” the letter, which was signed by 41 residents, read.
“A few of us in Tiong Bahru Estate decided that it was only right that we let Thiruben know that we support him and his family and that hate has no place in our lives, our neighborhood and our country.
At the same time, we want to share and show our support for Singapore’s national values of mutual respect regardless of race, language or religion,” wrote Ms Carolyn Oei in a Facebook post.
As for his MP, Ms Indranee wrote, “I visited Thiruben and his family yesterday to see how they were doing. I am happy to report that they are fine and very appreciative of all the support shown to them. They are a lovely family. His parents are humble and hardworking and he and his siblings are all multi-talented. They are proud Singaporeans and we in turn can be very proud of them.”
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