Forum panelists condemn racist comments against condo resident Erramalli Ramesh

At a forum organised by interfaith organisation Roses of Peace, National University of Singapore (NUS) and Straits Times on Sunday (3 Nov), panelists urged the silent majority to “call out” racist comments posted online. The forum which was held in NUS was supported by OnePeople.sg, a national body chaired by Dr Puthucheary, the Senior Minister of State of the Communications and Information Ministry.

Letting such comments go unchallenged might lead to more people thinking that racism is allowed, said the forum panelists. Adjunct Associate Professor Adrian Heng raised the recent example of the condo video which went viral online. Netizens called for the man, identified as Erramalli Ramesh, to be fired from his company, on top of other hateful remarks.

Mr Erramalli has filed a police report against the people who dug out his identity online. He claimed that he was a victim of doxxing because his identity was disclosed with the intention to harass.

Prof Heng said that while the video was not racist, the same cannot be said of the comments that identified the resident’s race and more should be done to stamp out such hateful race-calling. “There weren’t enough voices calling for calm,” he added.

Straits Times news editor Zakir Hussain said that social media has changed the way people responded to racism, and it might be helpful to take a step back and think carefully before responding. “We get triggered so much more often now,” he said, adding that people were less driven and dictated by social media in the past.

However, the panelists and attendees at the forum disagreed on the extent to which measures must be taken against racist comments. While some wanted tougher actions to be taken against netizens making racist comments, Mr Jimmy Sia, a volunteer with Roses of Peace said, “We can’t police behaviour online. You can’t tell people to stop spewing nonsense.”

Singaporeans concerned about jobs

Still, many of the comments made online were not racist. At the time the video went viral, many thought that Erramalli was a foreigner working in Singapore. Many were questioning why his company JP Morgan was hiring foreigners when there are plenty of retrenched local talents available in Singapore.

As it turned out, Mr Erramalli is a new citizen. He is said to have married a native Singaporean.

Former UK Labour party chief: Worrying, talking, thinking about immigration does not make one a bigot

After the UK Labour party lost in the 2010 UK election, former UK PM and Labour party leader Gordon Brown was replaced by a new chief, Ed Miliband. In a speech in 2012, Mr Miliband acknowledged how his Labour party had “got things wrong” on immigration.

He said that people who worry about immigration should not be characterized as bigots – a reference to Brown’s description of a British citizen who was concerned about jobs with the then Labour government’s implementation of its “open-door” immigration policy.

“Worrying about immigration, talking about immigration, thinking about immigration, does not make them bigots. Not in any way,” Mr Miliband said.

After the Labour government was voted out in 2010, the new UK Conservatory/Liberal government had to undo some of the Labour Party’s liberal immigration policy.

Concerns over immigration among the UK citizens would later precipitate “Brexit”. Certainly, none of the UK leaders would view immigration concerns as “racist” these days.