Cabinet ministers slam rising xenophobia

Deborah Choo
Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam was one of the two ministers who continued to drive home the need for an inclusive, gracious society following Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech. (Yahoo! file photo)

Two Cabinet Ministers have taken a strong stance against brewing xenophobic sentiments in Singapore.

Following Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally speech delivered on Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam continued to drive home the need for an inclusive, gracious society.

DPM Shanmugaratnam described the vitriol towards foreigners, especially in online discussions, as “out of our Singaporean character” in his Facebook post on Monday.

"Bad behaviour by a small number of foreigners does not justify spiteful comment about foreigners in general, or all foreigners of a particular race. It does no one good," he wrote.

His post garnered 75 likes and 22 shares.

Shanmugam also expressed his views on Facebook as he summarized the top five points of PM Lee’s speech. His post on Monday has since garnered over 120 likes, and 34 comments.

He wrote, “The need for us to recognise that some things being said, against foreigners, online, anonymously, are repulsive and xenophobic, and does not really represent the best spirit of Spore.”

“The majority of Singaporeans are tolerant, decent and open-hearted. The small minority, which is highly negative, and hiding behind anonymity, and spewing vitriol, should not be allowed to set the tone for the debate.”

Some netizens agreed that Singapore must clamp down on anti-foreigner abuse.

A Facebook user Ashok Kumar, who commented on Shanmugam’s post, wrote,“Agreed, we should put our foot down against vitriol and verbal abuse aided by online anonymity. Why be afraid when you can justify your account?”

User Marcus Lee wholeheartedly agreed that “xenophobia has no place in this beautiful country”.

Another user Kumar Rajah, however, pointed out that it is a two-way street.

“Likewise, there is a decent minority of foreigners, xenophobic against Singaporeans too, spewing vitriol too. Unlike Singaporeans who do it online, many foreigners show their bad attitude, aggressive nature, looking down on Singaporeans making low remarks about Singaporeans," he wrote.

"It’s really hurting…sometimes it goes unreported due to extreme shy behaviours of typical Singaporeans… there should be a hotline or common decent platform to report such cases. Such PRs should be deprived of becoming Singapore citizen.”

User Tan Kok Tim urged the government to be more selective of the type of foreigners it grants citizenship to.

“We must be strict on this to weed out the unfit…Our sense of warm-heartedness and big-heartedness must not be taken by foreigners as a weakness in choosing the right kind of immigrants to be part of our community.”