Minister for National Development, Khaw Boon Wan, has responded to criticisms regarding a Facebook post he made yesterday.
The post was accompanied by eight photographs of the joint exercise which apparently showed security personnel and “foreign worker ambassadors” simulating a situation of unrest.
“To test our response capability, the Police, the SCDF, the dorms operators and our grassroots organisations organised a simulation exercise recently,” he said. “It was a useful way to network up the various agencies, and spread preventive messages. Prevention is always better than cure.”
The posting immediately drew concerns and criticisms from the public for being insensitive, and some also criticised the joint exercise itself as being racist.
See TOC’s earlier report here: “Minister’s Facebook post comes under fire”.
On Wednesday evening, Mr Khaw posted a comment on the discussion thread in response to the uproar on his Facebook page.
“The exercise was conducted two weeks ago in a dormitory located within Sembawang,” he said. “I was then in Suzhou for the Suzhou Industrial Park celebration. My grassroots leaders who helped organise the exercise reported to me yesterday that the exercise went well and was well received by the various stakeholders: grassroots, SPF, SCDF and foreign workers ambassadors who worked hand in hand on the exercise. They found it to be a meaningful collaboration which bonded the residents and foreign workers.”
“In fact, a buffet lunch was also organised for all who participated to celebrate the successful conclusion of the exercise.”
“This is one of the many engagement and education sessions conducted by our grassroots and government agencies with foreign workers, regardless of nationality or race. Past efforts cover areas such as first aid, dengue prevention and local culture. Our intent is to promote mutual understanding with the local community.”
Mr Khaw’s explanation, however, drew further rebuttal from at least one commenter after Mr Khaw posted it.
Mr Michael Cyssel Wee said Mr Khaw did not address the anger and the questions raised by those who were upset by his original post and the exercise itself.
Mr Wee said, “Many people have found it racially insensitive and in poor taste. It is obvious from the comments that this exercise has not been well received by many, yet you do not directly respond to the legitimate concerns that many have had. Now, I'm sure we all agree that simulation exercises are useful and that engaging the foreign worker community with workshops like first aid, dengue prevention and local culture are good things. But there remain many questions about this exercise and the way you have publicised it, and they deserve to be answered.”
He added, “And giving them a buffet lunch doesn't retrospectively justify things, either.”