SINGAPORE: An abusive campaign by Singaporeans opposing a planned Philippine independence celeb–ration has shone a light on anti-foreigner sentiment in the city-state, home to large numbers of guest workers accused of taking jobs from locals and causing overcrowding.
The Philippines marks its 116th year of independence on June 12 and a group of Filipino residents in Singapore is planning an event on June 8 at a shopping complex along busy Orchard Road.
It became a hotly debated topic after commentators on anonymously-run local web–sites and Facebook pages heaped racial abuse on Filipinos and attacked the choice of venue, saying it should be held in the Philippine embassy grounds instead of the public Orchard Road area.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who attended a “Singapore Day” celebration in London on March 29 attended by 9,000 people, condemned the “thuggish behavior” of people who harassed the organizers of the Philippine event, calling them a “disgrace to Singapore.”
Blaming “a few trolls” for the online attacks, he wrote on his Facebook page: “How would we have felt if British netizens had spammed our website, and abused Sin–gaporeans living in Britain?”
A spokeswoman for organizers Pilipino Independence Day Council Singapore (PIDCS) referred to a previous statement which said they were “heartened, grateful, and happy to receive support from Singaporeans.”
She declined to comment on whether the event would go ahead as planned on June 8. Police say they have not yet received a permit application for it.
The Philippine embassy in Singapore was moved to post an advisory on its website urging Filipino residents to exercise caution.
“Participating in these online debates will only inflame the situation and may result in untoward incidents, possible loss of employment and investigation by authorities,” it said.
Eugene Tan, an associate law professor at the Singapore Management University, said the online backlash is a “visceral over-reaction and it does not reflect the sentiments of the average Singaporean.”
“The anger probably stems from unhappiness with the govern–ment’s immigration policy,” Tan, a social commentator and appointed lawmaker, told Agence France-Presse.
Singapore’s low birth rate prompted the government to grant an average of 18,500 new citizenships every year between 2008 to 2012—helping the population surge by 30 percent since 2004 to 5.4 million last year.
Out of a foreign population of 1.55 million from China, India, The Philippines, Thailand and elsewhere, about 700,000 are work-permit holders employed in construction and other sectors shunned by Singaporeans. More than 200,000 others work as domestic helpers.