In response to an opinion piece from the Straits Times (ST), the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) issued a statement yesterday (12 May), categorically denied it was stoking or inciting racism to gain political mileage and advantage, PSP wrote:
“PSP is steadfast in promoting racial harmony and equality which is enshrined in our core values and beliefs.
PSP is categorically against racism and does not stoke or incite racism to gain political mileage and advantage.
The recent cases of hate crime and violence against Indians are unacceptable and deplorable.
We appeal to the good sense of all Singaporeans to stay calm and united during this period of crises.
For Country For People”
On Tues (11 May), NCMP Leong Mun Wai accepted the challenge from Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam to file a motion to debate the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) in Parliament (‘PSP’s Leong Mun Wai accepts challenge by Law Minister K Shanmugam to file a motion on CECA to debate in Parliament‘).
Minister Shanmugam invited NCMP Leong to file a motion about CECA so that the House can debate if Singaporeans are benefiting or losing from the signed free trade agreement between Singapore and India.
In response, Mr Leong said that PSP is interested, “We are very interested to take up the CECA issue at some point in time. I think we still need to understand the situation more.”
Mr Leong also went on to carefully emphasise that he and his party are not xenophobic, and their interest in CECA issue is purely on the economic grounds. “However, I must state at the outset that PSP and myself are not being xenophobic. We are just stating the economic effects of some of these free trade agreements have had on the economy.”
“We are definitely not xenophobic and definitely racism has no place in our overall thinking. It is all about economics and livelihoods,” he concluded.
Character assassination of NCMP Leong?
After Mr Leong said PSP would be “very interested to take up the CECA issue”, ST immediately published an opinion piece yesterday (12 May) accusing Mr Leong of playing the race and nationality card in the House over the CECA issue.
ST noted that Mr Leong had previously raised a question in Parliament on whether there were plans to negotiate better terms in the CECA review, given DBS Bank India’s merger with Lakshmi Vilas Bank. ST also noted that Mr Leong had lamented that DBS had no homegrown chief executive officer.
“Its current chief, Mr Piyush Gupta, was born in India and became a Singapore citizen in 2009,” ST asserted.
However, it has also been noted that officially when Gupta accepted DBS’ appointment on 1 Sep 2009, he was only a PR and not a Singapore citizen yet, according to a Reuters’ report. The report said, “A permanent resident of Singapore, with his wife and two teenage children, Gupta takes a keen interest in promoting education and advised the Singapore government on revamping primary education.”
“The Straits Times newspaper said Gupta is in the process of applying for Singapore citizenship,” Reuters added.
Subsequently, as reported by ST, Gupta became a Singapore citizen in the same year 2009, probably right about the time he officially took over DBS with MAS’ approval in Nov 2009. In other words, Gupta wasn’t a Singapore citizen at the time when he received his appointment letter from DBS in Sep 2009 and Mr Leong was not wrong to say that DBS had no homegrown CEO.
In any case, in the ST opinion piece, it further wrote that Mr Leong’s comments about the influx of foreigners have extended to even beyond those from India, “He (Mr Leong) has spoken about Singaporean workers facing a wage disadvantage because employers do not contribute to foreign workers’ Central Provident Fund; and about hawker centres eventually no longer serving local food, but more and more foreign food.”
Defending the government, ST said, “It has to be acknowledged that government policies are not perfect. Have there been gaps in planning and execution, not just on the issue of foreigners? Yes. Do certain anti-government websites and politicians tap a vein of unhappiness among Singaporeans who feel disenfranchised? Absolutely.”
Referring to Mr Leong, ST added, “But do the ends justify the means – specifically by playing the race or nationality card? No, especially for politicians who are keenly aware that their words carry weight not just in the House but on the streets.”
Mr Leong is merely echoing the feelings of many Singaporeans on the ground, especially those who have been displaced and yet he has been unfairly accused of “playing the race or nationality card” in the House. If he can’t bring this up in Parliament, the highest legislature of the country, where else can he raise the matter to?
Ex-UK Labour party chief: Talking about immigration doesn’t make one a bigot
It is interesting to note that after the UK Labour party lost in the 2010 UK general election, former UK PM and Labour party leader Gordon Brown was replaced by Ed Miliband. In a speech in 2012, Mr Miliband acknowledged how his 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 woman 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 being “racist” these days.