I considered very carefully before I started this post, whether I wanted to write about it or not. I have, in older posts, written about race and what it is like being a minority in my own country.
I also questioned whether I take it too seriously. Am I becoming more aware or am I becoming too sensitive to the little barbs about race. One friend commented about one of my posts regarding sexual abuse "your kind of people do it" Wake up people, its not a race thing. there are bad hats everywhere, that sort of thing happens regardless of race. But I digress.......
Last Sunday we had riots. That hasn't happened in Singapore since 1969. So its been awhile. A whole generation grew up thinking that riots and strikes happened everywhere else but here. (A year or so ago we had a strike see older post )
We import our labour, all the construction workers, cleaners, lowly paid jobs are taken up by a majority of foreign labour. We have people from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, China and Vietnam who labour hard to build and maintain our roads, buildings and estates. They work 6 days a week and have Sundays off to rest. They congregate in little enclaves around Singapore to rest, relax and just hang out with friends. Food and alcohol make up a big part of their Sunday get togethers. when you put tired, lonely frustrated men together with alcohol, you will invariably get trouble. What happened last Sunday occurred in Little India where the majority of the Indian workers get together. Read reports here on the whole incident. An unfortunate accident which resulted in the tragic death of an individual was the spark that started a riot.
It is not the race of the person that matters, it is not the Race or the caste ( as one comment suggested) of the individuals who rioted that matters. It is however the fact that they took an opportunity to react in a violent manner that we need to address. We need to ask why, and how we can prevent it from happening again. As it is we house them in dorms, some are crowded, dirty and I am sure a violation to human rights, and they work extremely hard, yet we treat them like sub humans. Some of the dorms remind me of concentration camps. There have been more cases of the workers being abused by their Singaporean bosses, then the other way around.
I am not shocked by the fact that the riots happened, I am shocked at the way my fellow citizens have reacted. Online vitriol has escalated and on every blog post comments you can read about hatred and racism towards the Indian nationals, that I cringe to admit that I am Singaporean. There are plenty of Singaporeans that have reacted positively but it is the bad apples in the bunch that give everybody a bad name, whether you are a foreign worker here or a citizen.
I would like to remind my fellow Singaporeans about our pledge that we grew up reciting.
The National Pledge
We, the Citizens of Singapore
Pledge ourselves as one united people
regardless of race, language or religion
to build a democratic society based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation
Can we not see that this pledge should be incorporated into our thinking when we deal with all that imported labour that has helped build our nation? Can we not see that we should remember this pledge when we interact with our fellow citizens?