Photo: Khaw Boon Wan Facebook page
Photo: Khaw Boon Wan Facebook page
By Andrew Loh
Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s Facebook posting of an anti-riot drill involving some “foreign workers ambassadors” and the Police and SCDF has come under fire for supporting the joint-exercise which some saw as racist and insensitive.
Migrant workers’ non-governmental organisations, TWC2 and HOME, have criticised it, along with members of the public who registered their disapproval on Mr Khaw’s Facebook page.
Mr Khaw and the police have since responded to the uproar and defended the joint-exercise which was held about two weeks ago at a foreign worker dormitory in Sembawang.
See TOC’s earlier report here: “Minister’s Facebook post comes under fire”.
Is the joint-exercise racist? Or racially-insensitive?
Mr Khaw explained in his posting that the exercise was to “test our response capability” in the event when “quarrels erupt, leading to fights or worse.”
“These are possible scenarios, given the concentration of foreign workers in one locality,” he said.
“It was a useful way to network up the various agencies, and spread preventive messages,” he added. “Prevention is always better than cure.”
Questions have been raised about why it was necessary to hold such exercises at foreign workers’ dormitories which, in this case, housed workers from the South-asian community – namely, Indians and Bangladeshis who make up the majority who spend their weekends at Little India.
The inference to last December’s Little India riot is thus unmistakable – Indians had rioted there.
And here perhaps is why asking both Indian and Bangladeshi “ambassadors”, as Mr Khaw described them, to participate in the drill held at a dormitory where they stay, is offensive to some.
The insinuation is that these – Indians and Bangladeshis – are more prone to rioting or causing unrest.
It feeds into the misrepresentation that South-asians are more susceptible to violent means than others – although evidence does not support such a claim.
In fact, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong himself cautioned against such mindsets after the Little India riot.

“We should not generalise a group because of some individuals. I don’t think that is fair or justifiable because their (foreign workers) crime rates are, in fact, lower than Singaporeans in general.”

Focusing on the South-asian community thus reinforces the discriminatory views that they are more prone to violent acts, despite what the PM himself had said.
Also, Mr Khaw’s post that the joint-exercise was because of potential “fights” in areas where there is a “concentration of foreign workers in one locality” does not make sense either. If that were so, why only conduct such exercises in dormitories for foreign workers?
Fights occur in other areas as well.
Some have thus rightly asked why similar exercises of this nature have not been held in other areas where crime and violence are, some argue, even more pronounced than in the dormitories for foreign workers.
Geylang, for example, which the Police Commissioner had described as a “powder keg” waiting to explode. The area is frequented by Chinese nationals.
And then there is Clark Quay, where Caucasian expats and Singaporean executives spend their time when away from work.
Just one and a half years ago, the Chinese newspaper Shin Min reported a rather alarming statistic:
It said that “each year, an average of 170 fights or violent acts break out in the Clarke Quay area.”
Read that again – “170 fights or violent acts”.
In the Clarke Quay area.
That’s an average of one fight or violent act every other day.
Is there any foreign workers dormitory which comes close to such a situation in comparison?
In a New Paper report in March 2012, titled “They club, then they fight”, the paper said:

Official numbers also indicate that fights at nightspots are on the rise.
Figures released by the police showed that there were 26 cases of reported nightspot brawls last year.
Police said that of these, nine were rioting cases and 17 serious hurt cases.

There were nine cases of rioting.
17 serious hurt cases.
But such cases didn’t happen only last year.
In May this year, for example, this headline appeared in the papers:
How many such cases have happened in foreign workers’ dormitories, or in areas where foreign workers gather, including Little India?
Even theft cases were reported to be on the rise at Clarke Quay.
So, the question: have the authorities conducted similar anti-riot/unrest drills at Clarke Quay, or at areas where known expats or Singaporeans congregate?
And have the police asked these expats or Singaporeans to be “ambassadors” and participate in such exercises or drills, simulating rioters?
If they did, it would be good for the authorities to release information about this, to debunk any allegations of racism.
At the end of the day, this is perhaps what those upset by the joint-exercise in Sembawang are unhappy about: that lower-skilled, lower-wage foreign workers are singled out for special attention when the evidence seems to indicate that in fact they are not the main troublemakers, as it were.
This was also what PM Lee said, did he not, when he said that foreign workers crime rates “are, in fact, lower than Singaporeans in general”?
So, if as Mr Khaw said, the joint-exercise is to prepare our security personnel for “fights” which may occur in areas where there is a concentration of foreign workers, then perhaps the focus should be in these other areas of Singapore which are frequented by expats and Singaporeans.
There is thus merit in asking if the authorities are – wittingly or unwittingly – reinforcing the racist impression that South-asians are more susceptible to violence, in spite of the evidence.
For the moment, it would seem that the fights which Mr Khaw spoke of are more likely to happen in areas such as Clarke Quay than the dormitories for low-wage foreign workers.

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
You May Also Like

DBSS not a “failure”: Desmond Lee

Minister of State for National Development, Desmond Lee, told Parliament on Monday…

中国武汉疑发现“不明肺炎”案例 我国卫生部密切监测

中国湖北省武汉市疑似发现重症肺炎案例,如今我国卫生部正密切进行监测。 昨日(2日),卫生部发表文告,中国湖北省武汉市出现肺炎病例,引起亚洲各地区的关注,卫生部提醒所有的医护人员对疑似肺炎症状提高警惕,尤其是从武汉返回的潜在病患。其中症状包括发烧、急性呼吸道疾病,以及其他可疑症状,一旦发现,应在病患从武汉返回的14天内被隔离,以防止肺炎传染。 与此同时,卫生部也宣告,自2020年1月3日起,樟宜机场将一律针对从武汉入境的旅客进行提问筛查,一旦发现可以病例将会直接转入医院做详细评估。 樟宜机场也会张贴相关健康咨询海报,并提供旅客健康咨询。 所幸的是,截至1月2日,卫生部仍未发现任何可疑病例。 除了武汉,香港也出现3宗病例 除了我国已准备好防范措施,香港也开始针对肺炎爆发作出预防措施。 据当地媒体报道,自武汉市爆发肺炎病例,香港政府已警觉并作出相关措施,如提供民众每日更新资讯等。 自新年前夕,武汉市官方宣布在数家诊所内与医院发现了肺炎患者,爆发原因有待厘清。根据中国媒体报道,共有27人确认感染肺炎,其中7人病情严重。 港媒则指出,在武汉市爆发肺炎后,香港也陆续发现三宗病例,目前有两名病人已出院,而一人正在医院接受治疗。 但香港有关当局也澄清,此三宗病例与武汉市肺炎无关,但有关当局仍为避免传染,启动预防措施,进行严密监测。 我国卫生部也建议所有从武汉入境新加坡的旅客应密切注意自己的健康状况,一旦发现身体不适,即请就医,并向医生如实以告,而要到武汉市的民众则可以采取以下行动。…


副总理兼财政部长王瑞杰昨日(19日)宣布2020财政预算案,当中也提出今年预测实施的相关措施,对此新加坡民主党亦拍摄视频点评。 在开始前,新加坡民主党主席淡马亚(Paul Tambyah)先感谢正站在前线努力对抗疫情的医疗工作人员,也呼吁人民应该抛开成见,在疫情期间站在同一阵线,支持医护工作人员,并相信终能克服难关。 然而,淡马亚指出,尽管疫情总有一天会结束,但新加坡老百姓长久以来面对的问题仍待解决,包括生活开支不足、政府“将国家当作企业来管理,将人民视为顾客,或者更糟”。 淡马亚:充满了微小调整,但却缺乏大胆的举措 淡马亚认为,此次的2020财政预算案看似“充满了微小调整,但却缺乏大胆的举措”。 他举例,“人民行动党提出将给予人民各项不同的优惠卷如杂货卷、消费税保证抵消(GST assurance payment)、消费税补助券- 水电费回扣(GST Voucher – U-Save)等等,同时也提供暂时性协助给受到全球经济放缓影响的人民。” 然而,他续指,“高度倒退的消费税,使得穷人所缴纳的所得税比例远远高于富人,而后者被仅仅只有些微的差异,这也说明,消费税调长至9巴仙一事,可能会在下届大选举办后立即调整,或是在2022年后。” 同时他也认为,针对人民所关心的生活开支如公共交通费、水电费、校巴费用等,人民行动党也未作出相应的承诺。…

SG50: 50 Things you can bet that are not going to change in 2015

By a Concerned citizen SG50: 50 Things you can bet that are…