False pretext of nipping the bud

I refer to the 24 May 2014 Straits Times letter “Nip anti-foreigner sentiments in the bud” by Ng Qi Siang.

Mr Ng claims that the protest against the Philippine Independence Day event shows Singapore society becoming more intolerant and signals a shift towards the far right.

Mr Ng is not far right but far wrong in his assessment of the current situation. In the Anton Casey case just four months back, Singaporean vehemence was no less vitriolic, yet the charge of Singaporeans being intolerant and far right was nowhere as staunchly made out as it is now and all throughout Singapore society including the state paper united in our condemnation of Mr Casey. Surely Singaporeans could not have suddenly shifted so far right in a matter of four months?

While Singaporean vehemence was clearly understandable in the previous case because Singaporeans have been clearly slighted in black and white, vehemence in the present case may not be so readily understood because many Singaporeans like Mr Ng have lost their understanding of what sovereignty and loyalty to the nation means after 50 years of PAP rule so much so that they fail to even notice that in the present case, it is no longer just the word “foreigner” that triggers the upwelling of powerful feelings of anger and frustration but the word “sovereignty” too. A line has been crossed that no loyal citizen, regardless of left or right should allow.

Mr Ng has also gotten his right and left mixed up. The right are the capitalists who would make no two hoots about importing cheap labour to maximize profits while the left are those that press for employment fairness and jobs for the people. So quite clearly, the PAP are the right while those that oppose them are not so this is a case of the pot calling the silverware black (not pot calling the kettle black because it is the silver that has been called black).

What is thus dangerous to Singapore now is that the right has resorted to calling its opponents far right after having called their predecessors leftists. Leftists, far right, xenophobic, no name is too cheap not to be used for branding and tarnishing those who have only Singapore’s interests at heart.

Singaporeans may have been brought up to believe in racial harmony, but we have been brought up with only four races to harmonise with, not the ten or fifteen today. A stable society is not one that constantly adds and adds beyond the point of bursting. Our society has always been cosmopolitan, with or without mass immigration. Our sensitivity to foreigners cannot include our bending to them in a way that compromises our sovereignty.

Let us not use the false pretext of nipping xenophobia to compromise Singapore’s sovereignty.

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