Singapore Day event was attended by people of all races: OSU

[UPDATED on 16 October at 8:10am: adding statement from OSU]

Singapore Day 2013 was attended by Singaporeans, their families and friends of all races, said the Overseas Singaporean Unit (OSU).

In a statement provided to Yahoo Singapore on Sunday evening in response to queries, a spokesperson for the OSU noted that the event is a pre-registered and ticketed event, "for purposes of crowd control and catering".

"Singaporeans could bring along a guest who might be non-Singaporean, and also attend with family members who are non-Singaporeans as a family," the spokesperson added.

These were issued in response to a man in Australia who complained on-air to a Sydney radio station about being turned away from attending the event, held last Saturday, allegedly by virtue of his appearance.

He went as far as to say he was discriminated against for being Caucasian, calling it "racist" and "outrageous".
 
The man, who identified himself as James, wrote an email to radio journalist Ben Fordham on Sydney radio station 2GB saying he and his father were on Saturday turned away from Singapore Day, held at a park called The Domain, because they were not Singaporean.
 
Singapore Day is an annual event organised by the government's Overseas Singaporean Unit for Singaporeans based abroad. It is held each year in a different country, and this year it was held in Sydney, Australia on Sunday.

It is a ticketed event, for which participants are required to register online by a cut-off date to attend.

James said he learned about Singapore Day online, and was interested to attend because he likes Singapore, has good Singaporean friends and also enjoys Singaporean food.
 
"We were just stunned and angry that this had happened to us in a public space in the middle of Sydney," wrote James, who said he had brought his father to the park in the hopes of getting to enjoy some "authentic Singaporean food".
 
His conversation with Fordham on Monday afternoon during an afternoon radio show called "Sydney Live with Ben Fordham" was recorded in a podcast posted on the 2GB website, which started with Fordham reading out James's email.

"We actually went back about 10 minutes later," said James over the phone with Fordham. "Maybe it was some sort of misunderstanding or miscommunication, and my father got hauled up by a bloke, one of the officials there, and was told that he couldn't come in because he isn't Singaporean."
 
James went on to point out that The Domain is a public space, adding that nothing on the advertisements for Singapore Day indicated that non-Singaporeans were not permitted.
 
"They were actually letting people in without checking if they were Singaporean — the only difference was the people they were letting in didn't look like my dad and I," he said. "We were quite clearly discriminated against because we were Caucasian."
 
James also said there were "probably hundreds of non-Caucasian people" walking into the event without their identification or passports being checked for verification, observing that they were "primarily of Asian background" in appearance.
 
"The fact that we were quite clearly barred not once, but twice, from coming into the event, clearly because of our appearance, purely because we're Caucasian, I think that's outrageous," he added.

But one Singaporean who did gain entry into the event told Yahoo Singapore that people were required to register online for e-tickets, and their tickets were checked and verified against photo identification at the entrance.

Law student Derek Chia, 25, said that pre-registration was required even for Singaporeans, although they were permitted to bring along a guest who may not be Singaporean.

"It was good to see that some Singaporeans brought their non-Singaporean friends in to give them a taste of Singaporean culture by pre-registering them online," he said, adding that he, too, registered and brought an Australian friend along, and also observed numerous Caucasians at the event.

Chia noted additionally that he was asked to show his e-ticket by officers on the ground before being allowed to join the queue into the venue.
 
A check on the Singaporean Day website indicated responses on its Frequently Asked Questions section that said Singaporean Day is exclusively for Singaporeans and their families.
 
To a question on why non-Singaporeans were not allowed, the response reads, "Singapore Day aims to bring a slice of home to Singaporeans abroad so as to emotionally connect them back to Singapore. It is also an event to galvanise the Singaporean community so that the sense of identity and belonging remain strong."
 
Reflecting on the conversation he had with James, Fordham said on-air, "You have other people entering the event because they look like they might be from Singapore, i.e. they're Asian, well, you get to go in — but if you've got a white face, you're clearly not Asian — you're out. Can someone explain how that works?"

Australian news website The Daily Telegraph reported on "community concern" about the event and, without giving any specifics at all, mentioned that organisers "could be found to have breached anti-discrimination laws for turning away caucasians at the door".

The Sydney event, however, did draw appreciation from its target audience: Singaporeans. An Anthony Sim said in a letter to socio-political website The Real Singapore, "It is quite heartwarming to know we are not alone. Everyone of us were on the same page."

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