Instead of addressing the issue at hand and the cause of the outrage, the default mode is to throw a tantrum.
Temasek Holdings issued a strongly worded statement condemning social media posts on its Indian employees as a “divisive, racist campaign”. Temasek CEO Ho Ching then got into the act, describing the posts as a “cowardly act of hate”.
A couple of months ago, Minister Grace Fu commented that COVID-19 had brought out xenophobic sentiments among Singaporeans. Citing public uproar over expatriates who flouted circuit breaker rules at Robertson Quay, she said that “somehow when we see a group of people that look different from us, there is a visceral reaction.”
Racist. Divisive. Hateful. Cowardly. Xenophobic.
Singaporeans have been branded as such for speaking out about foreigners in our midst. Isn’t such language in itself divisive and hateful?
When allegations were made against People’s Action Party GE2020 candidate Ivan Lim, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took a similar counter attacking stance, calling it a culture of “trial by internet.”
Yet the PAP itself had no qualms about resorting to a “trial by internet.” Just before the election, playwright Alfian Saat was accused of standing on the side of Malaysia. Jurong GRC Member of Parliament Dr Tan Wu Meng wrote an article titled “Pritam Singh supports Alfian Saat” and published it on the PAP website and Facebook page.
Casting aspersions on Alfian’s loyalties are nothing new. In 2019, Minister Ong Ye Kung read selected lines from a 1998 poem titled “Singapore You Are Not My Country” in Parliament and went on to cite examples of Alfian’s support for Malaysians and Malaysian politics, essentially questioning his loyalty to Singapore.
Do you see the richness of the irony? Or perhaps it’s just plain hypocrisy.
Here is a Singaporean artiste whose work is picked apart (artistic licence be damned) such that he could be castigated as pro-Malaysia and by inference anti-Singapore and disloyal. On the other hand, Singaporeans who express any sentiments against foreign influx in the context of jobs and livelihoods are chastised as racist and xenophobic. So you are damned if you show anti-foreign sentiments and damned if you have pro-foreign sentiments.
It’s all in the eyes of the beholder. It’s a throwback to the idea that if you are for the PAP, you are a loyal citizen but if you happen to be against the PAP and pro-opposition, you must be a disloyal citizen.