By Andrew Loh
The controversy over the protest against some Filipinos holding an Independence Day celebration event has taken another turn.
This time, the Acting Minister of Manpower, Tan Chuan Jin, has waded in with a post on his Facebook page. In it, he said “we should make a stand to say no to such bigotry”, referring to the anger expressed by some quarters over the event.
“They do not reflect who we are as a people and as a nation,” he said.
The Pilipino Independence Day Council Singapore (PIDCS), the organisers of the event, is planning to hold the celebration at the Civic Plaza at Ngee Ann City in Orchard Road, Singapore’s foremost shopping belt, in June.
Last week, a group calling itself “Say ‘No’ To A Overpopulated Singapore”, raised its protest against the event being held in a public space, and the use of Singapore scenes in its promotional posters and on its Facebook page and website.
Mainly, the protesting group is against:
- The use of the Singapore skyline in the promotional posters, Facebook page, websites, for the event.
- The use of the terms “Two Nations” and “Inter-dependence” in the event posters.
- The Filipinos celebrating “their country’s Independence on Singapore soil.” The group said it is urging the Filipinos to do so in their own Embassy compound.
The Facebook group has more than 26,000 “likes” so far.
“Encouragingly, there have been many decent Singaporeans who have come forward to condemn the actions of these netizens,” Mr Tan said in his online note.
“Many of us have celebrated Singapore’s national day in other countries and cannot imagine what it would be like if attacked in this way.”
Several people agreed with what Mr Tan said.
Justin Goh Kiok Swee said he believe “generally majority of the Singaporean are not against these meaningful event holding in civic plaza with the approval from the Ngee Ann City management.” [sic] Kimberley Leng-Mui said she has a wonderful Filipino colleague of six years. “As far as I’m concerned, he and his family is [sic] more than welcome to celebrate their Independence Day away from home here in Singapore,” she said.
Theodulus Chandra Raman too said he doesn’t any problems with the Filipinos celebrating their Independence Day.
Kok Ping Wong, “As a Singaporean, I’m not offended by the Filipinos celebrating their Independence Day there.”
However, more than a few have expressed disagreement with what Mr Tan said and urged the government to look at the underlying unhappiness behind such protests.
Tan Hui Shan, for example, asked, “Is it fair to just bash those Singaporeans who disagree with the manner this event is carried out without looking at the details and disagreements?”
While some disagree with the protest, they point to the government’s open immigration policy as a root cause of incidents such as this one.
Er Ming Hung, for example, referring to such protests, said that “with an open immigrants’ policy that arguably results in fierce competition in jobs, increased costs, stressed infrastructure and general overcrowding in a tiny space of 600km2 of space, is this not even predictable at all?”
Given the population composition of locals and foreigners – which he believes is about 55% Singaporeans and 45% foreigners – Mr Er said “it is exceptional that we only encounter the occasional online flares and local/foreigner altercation.”
“I believe that such expressions of anti-foreign sentiments are a manifestation of the malignant effects of the open immigrant policy on real people’s lives.”
He added: “It’s too easy to dismiss it as ‘bigotry’ and ‘hate’. Too easy. Until we start addressing the gaps of this ultra-open immigrant policy, this kind of anti-foreign sentiment will persist.”
Zahara Amed. said, “If you choose to dismiss everything as xenophobia, you will find more of such outbursts,” she posted on Mr Tan’s Facebook page. “The practical majority know that it isn’t the people, it’s the policies put in place that made things as they are now. If you choose to ignore this, you will find the practical majority diminishing in numbers as all their concerns are pushed aside and conveniently labelled as xenophobia.”
Jaqseer Singh Khaira concurred.
“The influx of foreigners has been highly impactful in our small country unlike in UK, Australia or US,” Singh said. “It has begun to encroach into our social norms. The consequence is Singaporeans have started to speak up as one voice and this augurs well for nation building.”
She added, perhaps referring to Mr Tan, “People who view this debate negatively either do not understand the deep underlying issues or failed to see how Singaporeans have evolved as a stronger country of concerned citizens.”
And others took issue with ministers like Mr Tan criticising Singaporeans for speaking up, instead of acknowledging that it is the government’s policies that have given rise to these anti-foreigner sentiments.
“Perhaps instead of slamming Singaporeans that we are becoming increasingly xenophobic, the ruling party should come up with practical policies to address the real underlying problem,” Adelene Chia said.
“It comes back to the problem of overcrowding and an influx of foreigners into Singapore over the last few years,” Adelene said. “Adding onto rising costs of living, more competition over jobs with foreigners, insufficient infrastructure to cope with increasing population and so on. All these are adding on to the increasing unhappiness among Singaporeans. Insecurity is stirring up a lot of racial dislike (not just [towards] Filipinos).
“If the government is successful in making Singaporeans feel secure and proud of their identities, then xenophobic incidents like this would happen less frequently.”
Perhaps Darren Tay said it best.
“Instead of just condemn [sic] such behaviour, as a government should be keen to know what have caused this.”
UPDATE: On 19 April 2014, at about 11.30am, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted the following on his Facebook page:
But not everyone agrees with the Prime Minister as well, as can be seen from these reactions to PM Lee’s post: