Thursday, May 29, 2014

Civil society groups 'alarmed' by surge of racism and xenophobia

MAY 28, 2014


SINGAPORE - Twelve civil society groups and 20 other people, including well-known activists Constance Singam and Vincent Wijeysingha, have signed a statement to raise concerns about "the recent surge of racism and xenophobia in Singapore".

The groups include the Association of Women for Action and Research, Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics and Maruah.

They said they were "alarmed" by the surge of such sentiments recently, in the statement sent to the media on Wednesday.

"We see the widespread use of racist, aggressive and militarised rhetoric on social media, as well as a trend of blaming foreigners for social ills," they said in the statement.

"Ordinary people have been threatened in public spaces with nationalist or anti-foreigner language."

Just this week, a group behind a Filipino Independence Day celebration had to call off the event after its choice of venue - Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza in Orchard - was criticised by some netizens here, sparking concerns about public safety and security.

In the statement, the civil society groups said the key to addressing the economic frustrations felt by many Singaporeans is to "amend the economic policies and structures that cause worsening economic inequality and marginalisation".

These policies, they noted, were not "instituted by migrants and will not automatically disappear if the migrant population decreases".

Such anti-foreigner sentiments also stifle constructive political discussion because symbols such as pink identity cards or National Service then become "sacred emblems of belonging and entitlement", which prevents them from being discussed openly, they said. Discussions of immigration policy, they said, will ultimately affect the treatment of migrants already living in Singapore.

The 12 organisations which signed the statement also included groups such as Transient Workers Count Too and Think Centre and individuals like former Nominated MP and political watcher Siew Kum Hong and former detainee Teo Soh Lung. They called for Singaporeans to unite in rejecting the politics of division, xenophobia and hate and be responsible for the impact of their contributions to Singapore's social climate and political conversation.

[What an inaccurate report on the PIDC. The proposed celebration at Ngee Ann City was called off because the organisers failed to get the proper permits from the authorities. The police denied the application on grounds of public safety and security. How does this translate to xenophobia and anti-foreigner feelings? Is the implication that the Police are also xenophobic and racists? That they did not assess the application in a professional, objective, and critical manner? That they were swayed by public sentiments, political consideration, and personal biases?

Yes, some people were against foreigners having ANY kind of normal life here and some were clearly racist or had racist stereotypes of foreigners. But others (who did not want foreigners to have a life here) were just plain selfish, self-centred and self-absorbed. Race never entered into the picture (except as an easy way to classify "Us" vs "Them"). They don't want their maids to have too much freedom and jeopardise their security deposit. 

Yes, some people were against the choice of venue, but some were TRULY concerned about the viability, the crowd, access, public safety and security - through on selfish grounds like they can't go shopping there that weekend. And yes, some were "Racist Patriots" who did not want foreigners using OUR land, our public areas, and would rather they held their celebration on their own embassy grounds.

Yes, there are anti-foreigner sentiments, but over-simplifying issues, misrepresenting the facts, and glossing over issues and events DOES NOT HELP.

Why is this misrepresentation wrong? Or dangerous?

The report implied that social media (netizens) critique of the PIDC led to the cancellation of the event. THAT IS ABSOLUTELY WRONG. 

That misrepresentation implies that social media and netizens have a power that they DO NOT HAVE. The misrepresentations imply that such xenophobia has invaded and infused our police department, and colour their decisions.

The average Singaporean (i.e. idiot) already have trouble understanding how things work in real life. Irresponsibly inaccurate, factually incorrect news reports (such as this) will serve to perpetuate these misunderstandings. And idiocy.]

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