PAP DENISE PHUA: I AM NOT XENOPHOBIC, I GET ALONG WELL WITH FOREIGN CLEANERS IN MY WARD

I recently made a short speech under the MHA budget debate. The speech is appended here. I have no intention to undermine any specific group. I should not have used the phrase “walking time-bombs” to describe congregations of high density.

I personally get along very well with the foreign cleaners in my constituency. To them and the other foreign workers in our country, thank you for your help and please accept my sincere apology if I have caused you concern.

My MHA Speech:

“Mr Melvin Yong and I are the local Members of Parliaments taking care of the residents of Little India. We wish to speak on behalf of our residents to ensure that the Little India riot of December 2013 will not happen again. The riot being the worst public disorder in Singapore in more than 40 years.

We are thankful for the post-riot recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) regarding alcohol restrictions, beefing up of police operations and patrols and the decentralisation of crowds to recreation centres in the rest of Singapore.

Recently, I was at Little India with Home Affairs Minister Shanmugam and members of the Police Force. It was obvious that the pre-riot crowds have returned to Little India. Madam, congregations of such high density are walking time-bombs and public disorder incidents waiting to happen. It is important that we do not take our eyes off this matter lest we want history to repeat itself. I hence wish to ask for Minister’s update of his plans in regard to this matter. I also ask for his favourable considerations of the following suggestions:

(1) Form a high-level multi-agency Task Force to mitigate the security and dis-amenity risks of high congestion of visitors to Little India;

(2) Ring-fence the Communal Areas of Residents such as the playgrounds and void decks so that the old and the young get to use the space meant for them;

(3) Continue with and do not stop resourcing the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry viz-a-viz alcohol consumption restrictions and patrol teams;

(4) Decentralise further by building more recreation centres outside Little India; and

(5) Engage regularly through planned dialogues with all key stakeholders, the foreign workers, agents, businesses and residents.

The contributions of the foreign workers benefit our entire nation as they help build much of our nation’s infrastructure. We need them and we accept that foreign workers like the rest of us, have social and leisure needs amongst other needs.

The issue is not a Little India locality issue. It is a national issue that can only be solved by carefully balancing the needs of all stakeholders – the workers, the residents, the businesses and the rest of Singapore.”

(End of speech)

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