Civil society issues statement on xenophobia and racism

A civil society statement presented jointly by 12 organisations and 22 individuals has raised the issue of a heightening of racism and xenophobia in Singapore and explained how the situation would be detrimental to human rights seeking and the health of political conversation in this country as a whole.

The statement speaks out against focusing on immigrants and neglecting what could really bring us closer to solving the problems that we face today in Singapore – amending the economic policies and structures that cause worsening economic inequality and marginalisation. 

We reproduce their statement below in full:

 

Civil society statement on racism and xenophobia

We, the undersigned, are alarmed by the recent surge of racism and xenophobia in Singapore. They threaten the human rights of all (especially migrants) and the health of our political conversation.

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 inequitable policies were not instituted by migrants and will not automatically disappear if the migrant population decreases. We urge for the energies of civil society to be directed toward creating a fairer, more equal society for all, including universal labour rights and employment protections.

Focusing on immigrants does not contribute to these structural changes and instead creates an unsafe and divisive society. 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. Ordinary people have been threatened in public spaces with nationalist and/or anti-foreigner language. To identify “true blue Singaporeans”, people appeal to prejudices about race, class, skin colour, names, accent, language, and other markers of difference, creating an oppressive society where people constantly discriminate against one another. This supports various forms of discrimination, not just against non-Singaporeans but also among Singaporeans – for example, on the basis of gender, age, disability, class, ethnicity, descent and other characteristics.

This anti-foreigner approach also stifles constructive political discussion. Some elevate pink identity cards or National Service to sacred emblems of belonging and entitlement, which cannot then be discussed openly and inclusively. Discussion of immigration policy does not take place in a vacuum. If we keep describing the presence of migrants as illegitimate and a threat to Singaporeans, this has inevitable effects on the treatment of migrants who are already in Singapore. We must conduct any discussion of state policy in a way that is fully mindful of those effects.

For years, Government policy and rhetoric have marginalised migrants and others, for instance by not giving domestic workers full and equal employment protections. Even though the Government’s policies have an inevitable impact on societal discrimination, each of us must be responsible for the impact of our own contributions to Singapore’s social climate and political conversation.

Civil society has a particular role to play in working to take care of the needs of minority groups such as migrants, rather than contributing to their marginalisation. We should work to promote not only robust political debate, but also the values of equality and universal human rights.

Those values are the true animating force of our desire for social change, and they require us to unite in rejecting the politics of division, xenophobia and hate.

Signatories:

Organisations

  • Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE)
  • Beyond the Border, Behind the Men
  • Function 8
  • Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME)
  • LeftWrite Center
  • MARUAH
  • Project X
  • Sayoni
  • Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign
  • Think Centre
  • Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2)
  • Workfair

Individuals

  • Fikri Alkhatib
  • Damien Chng
  • Ian Chong
  • Jean Chong
  • Chong Si Min
  • Kirsten Han
  • Farhan M. Idris
  • Godwin Koay
  • Lynn Lee
  • Siew Kum Hong
  • Constance Singam
  • Alvin Tan Cheong Kheng
  • Jolene Tan
  • Teng Qian Xi
  • Shelley Thio
  • Teo Soh Lung
  • Vincent Wijeysingha
  • Mark Wong De Yi
  • Wong Pei Chi
  • June Yang Yajun
  • Yap Ching Wi
  • Rachel Zeng

Let’s play spot the difference again

Let's play spot the difference again

Difference in TODAY’s print edition (hard copy) (on the left) and its online “Print Edition” (on the right) with some edited wording.

Where is the integrity in reporting? And why the persistence in changing not just the headline of its web article, but also the online “print edition” itself as well?

The difference: TODAY edited its earlier headline of “Blogger removes post after facing suit by PM” to “PM Lee demands blogger remove post or face legal action”.

TODAY reports on Roy Ngerng removing post from blog

roy ngerng on today

SINGAPORE — A healthcare worker who accused Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of misappropriating Singaporeans’ Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies on his blog has been asked — through Mr Lee’s lawyers — to remove the offending article by tomorrow or face legal action.

Mr Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, 33, received the letter of demand — including for payment of damages to Mr Lee — from Senior Counsel Davinder Singh via email on Sunday, regarding his May 15 article, Where Your CPF Money Is Going: Learning From The City Harvest Trial.

The article contains the “false and baseless allegation” that Mr Lee — who is also chairman of sovereign wealth fund GIC — is guilty of misappropriating money paid by Singaporeans to the CPF Board, wrote Mr Singh.

This “constitutes a very serious libel against our client, disparages him and impugns his character, credit and integrity. It is also clear that the article was published maliciously”, the lawyer added.

The letter, which Mr Ngerng posted in full on his blog yesterday afternoon, states that he has to remove the article, as well as links to it on two Facebook pages, within three days. He is also to publish an apology and undertaking not to make further similar allegations on his blog for the same duration that the May 15 article remained on the blog.

Mr Ngerng also has to pay damages, as well as costs and expenses relating to this matter that Mr Lee incurs.

Otherwise, legal action will be taken against him, the letter read.

Commenting on the letter of demand, Mr Ngerng wrote on his blog that he “believes in speaking up for my country and my fellow citizens”, and expressed disappointment at being sued for defamation, as well as “being silenced”.

His lawyer M Ravi said last evening that a response indicating Mr Ngerng’s position would be drafted and sent to Mr Lee and his lawyers in the next two days. Mr Ngerng had removed the blog post in question by 10.30pm.

A check of his blog posts showed that Mr Ngerng has regularly called for more disclosure and other changes to the management of CPF funds. He is also among the organisers of a Hong Lim Park event planned on June 7 to protest the increase of the CPF Minimum Sum to S$155,000. He was also one of the speakers at the Labour Day protest organised by career counsellor Gilbert Goh earlier this month.

The last time Mr Lee took action for defamation was against blogger Alex Au last January, for a post about Mr Lee and transactions between People’s Action Party town councils and the company Action Information Management.

-report by Neo Chai Chin, for TODAY, published May 20, 2014.

What If Godzilla Came to Singapore?

Image

“What The Straits Crimes would be reporting If Godzilla Came to Singapore:

1. Godzilla Blinded by Camera Flash
Thanks to 6.9 million people trying to Instagram it

2. Godzilla Given Honorary Citizenship
Singapore belongs to Godzilla too

3. Godzilla Quadruple-Facepalm Spotted
After screening of STB and YPAP videos

4. Godzilla Ordered to Co-regulate Itself
“If you step into the wrong places (and we are not telling you where), we will shoot you,” warns the government

5. Massive Earthquake in S’pore
After Godzilla attempts Tin Peiling impersonation

6. Godzilla to be Exhibited by S’pore Zoo
Visitors are invited to play with Godzilla poo

7. Godzilla Attempts to Split Esplanade
Thinks it’s a delicious durian

8. Godzilla Used to Avoid ERP
Drivers pay Godzilla to lift their cars over ERP gantries; govt may charge Godzilla

9. Godzilla Avoids Parliament
Thinks that it is infested with little white termites (somewhat true)

10. Godzilla Joins Megachurch
The only one big enough to accommodate it

11. Religious Fanatics Demand Godzilla to Change Name
Claim that it shouldn’t call itself “God”

12. ST Forum Publishes Banal Letters
Some believe that Godzilla will threaten Singapore’s social fabric; others argue that it will contribute to diversity

13. PM Lee on how to Ward off Godzilla
“Put up chilies and onions, and you can fix it in no time”

14. Godzilla Found Dead after Rampage Near Oxley Road ☹
Blood mysteriously drained out of body; two holes on neck”

-Molly Meek

Inspired by: http://fakemalaysianews.com/2014/05/14/14-things-that-would-happen-if-godzilla-attacked-kl/

‘We built this city’

Al Jazeera’s documentary on the state of migrant workers in Singapore who helped built most of what makes up the city’s beautiful landscape today, but who face exploitation of wages and welfare.

Join former journalist with New Paper, a mainstream media outlet of the city-state, Chan Tau Chou, as he looks into what lies behind the beautiful facade of the Lion City.

Text below from Al Jazeera:

On the night of December 8, 2013, paramedics rushed to the scene of a fatal traffic accident in Singapore’s Little India neighbourhood, where tens of thousands of South Asian workers socialise on their day off.Little did anyone expect the situation to escalate into a bloody riot, Singapore’s first in more than 40 years.

Foreign workers power Singapore’s booming economy, forming a fifth of Singapore’s 5.3 million population, mostly in low-paying jobs that locals avoid.

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The accident had occurred after construction worker Sakthivel Kumaravelu, a 33-year-old labourer from India, was stopped from boarding a bus ferrying migrant workers back to their dormitories. The bus ran over and killed him as he chased after it and fell.

An angry crowd built up as paramedics struggled to extricate his body. They pelted the bus and first responders with rocks, glass bottles, even road dividers.

Riot police eventually quelled the violence but by the end of the night, the mob had set five emergency vehicles ablaze and damaged another 25.

It shocked the nation. Singapore, known for its strict laws and social order, had not witnessed such mayhem since the race riots of 1969.

The Little India riot prompted authorities to conduct a five-week public inquiry that concluded in March, to investigate the reasons behind the violence.

Among a wide range of evidence presented, witnesses said rioters appeared intoxicated and turned to violence when first responders failed to control the accident scene.

The inquiry also heard that many foreign workers feel a sense of injustice over how employers treat them.

The government calls the riot an “isolated incident” that has no bearing on the treatment of migrant workers. It has responded by restricting alcohol sales and increasing police powers in Little India.

But critics believe these measures miss the point.

Foreign workers power Singapore’s booming economy, forming a fifth of Singapore’s 5.3 million population, mostly in low-paying jobs that locals avoid.

While protective laws have strengthened over the years, 7,000 workers reported employment disputes last year. Migrant aid groups say countless others are too afraid to report the abuse and exploitation they face.

Activists observe that in wage and injury claim disputes, workers are often powerless against their employers’ decision to terminate their work permits, which leaves them struggling to sustain themselves as they wait for the government to resolve their cases.

That can take anything from a few months to more than a year.

Migrant workers often borrow thousands of dollars to pay an employment agent in their home country. Their work permits can be renewed every one or two years, but they need much longer to pay off their debts, often working in harsh conditions.

Aid groups say that prevents them from rocking the boat when employers underpay them.

Connect With 101 East

Many of the disputes occur in the construction industry, where some 300,000 labourers shape Singapore’s constantly changing city skyline. They form a third of all foreign workers, excluding domestic helpers.

In this film, we hear from Shabdar Ali, a Bangladeshi electrician who survived horrific head injuries at work only to be abandoned by his employer. More than a year on, his injury compensation case remains unresolved.

Ali’s compatriot, construction worker Gulam Mustafa, also tells us how his employer attempted to forcibly repatriate him following his shoulder injury. With nowhere to go, he is forced to rent a bed space in an overcrowded and unhygienic dormitory.

We spend time with non-profit group Transient Workers Count Too, which has served nearly half a million hot meals to workers in need; and we investigate the lucrative businesses of illegally housing and repatriating foreign labourers.

Weaved together, the stories reveal Singapore from the perspective of the migrant workers who built the city, and how they slip through the cracks when employment disputes hit a brick wall.

Do migrant workers in #Singapore receive enough protection against errant employers? #LittleIndiaRiot

101 East  airs each week at the following times GMT: Thursday: 2230; Friday: 0930; Saturday: 0330; Sunday: 1630.Click here  for more  101 East