Singapore — Following the worst violence seen in Singapore in over 40 years, political leaders are urging people to remain calm and to avoid online racial comments directed towards foreign workers who rioted Sunday night in the city-state’s Little India district.
In the aftermath of the violent riots, social media erupted in reaction to the events, with some users expressing xenophobic and racist feelings.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called the riot “a very grave incident,” writing on Facebook “Whatever events may have sparked the rioting, there is no excuse for such violent, destructive, and criminal behaviour. We will spare no effort to identify the culprits and deal with them with the full force of the law.”
“I urge all Singaporeans to stay calm,” said the prime minister.
Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong urged the public to “Avoid spreading misinformation and rumours, and keep xenophobia and racial remarks out of the conversation”.
Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin made several Facebook posts late Sunday night, urging the public to remain calm, not to speculate, and to avoid making racial comments, said reports.
Second Minister for Home Affairs S Iswaran said that foreign workers in Singapore “are by and large, law abiding individuals who are here to earn a living and to support their families in their home countries.”
“This incident is the the result of the unlawful actions of some individuals” and such behaviour will not be tolerated,” he said.
Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim urged Singaporeans to keep in mind that foreign workers here are largely law-abiding people.
Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, asked the public not to spread rumours – especially those “with racial undertones,” saying “We should speak out against riot as a matter of principle but should not stoke anti-foreigners sentiments”.
The migrant workers’ group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) appealed to the public not to flame hatred and xenophobia when commenting on the riot that happened in Little India on Sunday night.
In a statement issued Monday, TWC2 president Russell Heng said his organization is saddened and disturbed by the incident. “We do not condone senseless acts of violence and would like to see those responsible apprehended and put to justice,” he said.
He also expressed concern about the online vitriol and xenophobia against foreign workers, saying such remarks “can only perpetuate a vicious cycle of hatred that can lead to more violence and may even cost lives”.
In a separate event, a group of netizens are meeting at Tekka Market at 7:45pm on Monday night. Their plan is to walk through the area and hand out flowers for peace and reconciliation. One organizer wrote: “Bring your own flowers and lots of love. Be safe, and most of all be loving.”