According to the Singapore Police, Raeesah Khan of the Workers’ Party (WP) has had two police reports lodged against her for two Facebook posts she had made before her candidacy for Sengkang Group Representative Constituency (GRC) was announced. The Facebook posts may allegedly be an offence under Section 298A of the Penal Code which deals with actions that promote “enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race”.
Khan had in two separate Facebook posts talked about seemingly unequal police treatment of the different races in Singapore. In one post, she referenced the well heeled foreigners who were seen flouting safe distancing rules in Robertson Quay when the Circuit Breaker measures were in place while in the other post, she referenced the City Harvest incident where Kong Hee was released from jail after only serving about two-thirds of his three-and-a-half years’ jail sentence for his role in misappropriating S$50 million.
To be fair to Khan, she isn’t the only person who was angry about the Robertson Quay incident. Many Singaporeans were angered by seemingly unequal treatment between well heeled foreigners and locals. In her posts, she was merely echoing what people were feeling. When Kong Hee was concerned, people had also remarked that his jail sentence was too short.
In view of this, were police reports and investigations even necessary? What is the line between fair comment, robust debate and inciting enmity between the races?
In view of the global reaction towards the Black Lives Matter movement, should we really stymie an open discussion about racism (perceived or otherwise) in Singapore? To genuinely improve any alleged racism, what we need is an open discussion. Singapore is not free from racism. Far from it. Just look at the number of racist statements that came out as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Migrant workers were ignorantly labelled dirty in mainstream media while PAP’s own ex minister likened migrant workers to pigeons. Is Khan’s outrage really that shocking? Repressing the issue does not make it go away. It makes things worse.
It is also important to note that Khan has apologised to the public. In a press conference, Khan apologised to any racial group or community who have been hurt by her comments and explained that she did not mean to cause social division, but had made the remarks as she wanted to raise awareness about minority concerns.
Contrast this with members of the PAP who have refused to apologise for arguably much bigger things. Look at Josephine Teo who has steadfastly refused to apologise despite the coronavirus ravaging the migrant worker community even till today.
Look at Ivan Lim who has also not apologised for apparent past wrongdoing.
Is it really fair to harpoon a 26 year old for expressing her opinion on racial issues on social media while not holding a minister (Josephine Teo) to account? Not only has Josephine Teo not apologised, she is running for the general election in Jalan Besar GRC!
In accompanying Khan while she publicly apologises, WP leaders Pritam Singh, Sylvia Lim and her GRC teammates are displaying great strength and unity.
Would the PAP do the same?