The Temasek Policy Review

A critical review of Singapore's policies from the ground

Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Tackle the cause and not the symptoms: Rising online ‘xenophobia’ is a result of failed integration

Posted by temasektimes on May 8, 2012

The rising number of ‘anti-foreigner’ sentiments being expressed in cyberspace has led to calls from Minister of Information, Communication and Arts Dr Yaacob Ibrahim (MICA) and some pro-PAP bloggers like Andrew Loh to devise an online code of conduct to control the internet under the guise of allowing the online community to ‘self-moderate’ itself.

In response to queries from a netizen, PAP MP Baey Yam Kim urged the online community to speak up against witch hunts and lynch mobs:

“The online community must be prepared to stand up for injustice, and speak up against witch hunts and lynch mobs, and not join in the bandwagon.”

Strictly speaking, ‘xenophobia’ is defined by an irrational fear and rejection of anybody or things which are foreign in nature and Singaporeans can hardly be considered to be ‘xenophobic’ given their high level of tolerance to immigrants and acceptance of foreign cultures and values.

The increasingly frequent tirades directed at foreigners and expression of nationalistic sentiments on the internet is a symptom of a wider underlying social problem lurking beneath the surface – the failed integration of thousands of immigrants which we have accepted in recent years and a perception that locals are being neglected in favor of the newcomers.

Singapore has always accepted immigrants from Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong since attaining independence in 1965 and seldom do we hear about Singaporeans complaining about them.

The recent wave of immigration differs from the past as too many foreigners from distant lands and cultures were allowed to enter Singapore within too short a period of time, threatening not only the livelihoods of Singaporeans, but their collective sense of national identity as well which explained the rare solidarity they showed at the ‘currygate’ saga.

The lack of proper channels in both mainstream politics and media for the expression of such grievances, frustrations and angers led them to find their way on the internet where after being suppressed for long, they exploded in the form of rants, witch hunts and lynch mobs targeting foreigners perceived to have taken advantage of the system at the expense of locals.

The Sun Xu saga highlighted the rising public disgruntlement and anger at the immigration policies which have brought an unprecedented influx of foreigners into Singapore and the unfair privileges enjoyed by some of them.

The government needs to understand the root cause of public unhappiness and address the grievances acutely felt by Singaporeans instead of dismissing their complaints immediately as ‘xenophobic’ rants as one Choa Chu Kang MP did recently.

Unlike other developed countries, Singapore does not have a social ‘valve’ for citizens to express their displeasure at the government publicly which resulted in such sentiments being suppressed and snowballed with time.

All Singaporeans want is for their voices to be heard, acknowledged and aired. It is not only counter-productive to portray such legitimate concerns as being ‘xenophobic’, but dangerous as well for it will breed a more radical form of right-wing extremism in the long run if the boiling anger is allowed to build up.

It is time the relevant authorities realize that integration has failed and concrete steps must be taken to rectify the already volatile situation on the ground before it becomes too late.

Advertisements

Posted in Media | 2 Comments »