Straits Times 18 April 2014

Curb the anti-foreigner ranting

THERE’S much to be said for the spirit of the Chingay Parade, well rooted after over 40 years, which inspires people to “celebrate together as one” the different cultures of Singapore and the world, as its organisers put it. That international flavour has been a highlight of the much-loved street event over the years.

Singaporeans have also come to appreciate the cultural expression of foreign residents, like the Songkran water festival which is synonymous with Thai exuberance. In turn, Singapore citizens abroad and their guests are hospitably treated when they celebrate Singapore Day in a public place, as in London’s Victoria Park.

Plans of some Filipinos to hold a celebration at Ngee Ann City’s Civic Plaza in June to mark Philippine Independence Day ought to be viewed in the same light, especially if they aim to follow a similar event held annually along Madison Avenue in New York City. Of course, some of that city’s xenophobes might protest now and again but Americans in general have welcomed the enlivening effect of the parade, street fair and cultural show.

Most Singaporeans would like to think the Republic would be no less welcoming to Filipinos.

So, what is one to make of the outrageous outburst of some netizens who object to the Pilipino Independence Day Council Singapore’s use of the Marina Bay skyline in an event logo and the terms “two nations” and “interdependence” in posters?

Making anonymous and threatening calls to the organisers of the Filipino event, demanding its cancellation, is simply beyond the pale. Worryingly, it betrays an intolerance and mean-spiritedness among some that might well be turned on local groups or causes too, that rub such netizens the wrong way.

Of course, one can always choose to ignore such ranting and raving among people who lack the courage to identify themselves and offer nothing more than empty vitriol. But the damage they inflict on Singapore’s image is not to be dismissed. Such anti-foreigner sentiment needs to be rejected by all.

While Singaporeans have made known their unhappiness about the over-rapid inflow of foreign workers in recent years, which resulted in key infrastructure, from transport to housing, becoming more crowded and costly, most would not be blind to the contributions of guest workers in building and running today’s Singapore.

The majority of Singaporeans would thus find the unseemly fashion in which foreign guests were targeted to be contrary to what this nation of immigrants stands for, as an open, trading economy, welcoming to people, capital and ideas from around the world.

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