It has been reported that seven foreigners have been fined by the Courts for flouting circuit breaker rules around the Robertson Quay area.
As readers will remember, videos of well-heeled foreigners congregating in groups with alcoholic beverages went viral in May, causing anger among Singaporeans that there was a seeming disparity between how well-heeled foreigners and locals or migrant workers were treated where circuit breaker rules were concerned.
According to TODAY, the seven have now been fined between S$8,000 or S$9,000 each. While this may seem like case closed and justice being served, this does beg the bigger question of inequality in Singapore.
Were these seven made an example just to assuage local anger? Does that resolve the deeper issue of the perception that well-heeled foreigners are treated better than locals?
Punishing these seven is not the tokenism that Singaporeans are interested in. It does not solve the underlying problem of why Singaporeans hold that perception in the first place. Singaporeans are after equality in treatment. Not reactionary punishment for the sake of it.
Contrast this to the nine Indian students who have been fined between S$2500 to S$4500 for also flouting the circuit breaker rules. Then, there is Francis Soh Seng Chye, who was fined S$4,500 for having dinner with his cousin, and also the 53 people who have been fined S$300 each for breaching other circuit breaker rules.
Why is there such a disparity in the amount of fines?
Is it because the Robertson Quay perpetrators went viral while the Indian students did not? Or is it because the authorities are aware of the degree of anger that the Robertson Quay videos generated?
Looking at the timing of the charges against the Robertson Quay seven, it would appear that they were only charged after the video went viral and sparked public backlash. Given that the Government has been criticised for being reactive instead of proactive where COVID-19 containment was concerned, is this yet another example of that?
In a pandemic such as this, what people need most is stability. Certainty in terms of the rules is what will provide the stability. Having such wide ranging fines for similar offences will only cause speculation and rumour mongering.
That’s the one thing that the authorities seem to have gotten wrong where COVID-19 was concerned. In a situation that needed stability and consistency, the Government appeared somewhat hap hazard and confused.