Dear Ms Phua

when the Straits Times published an article titled “Thinking Out of the Box”, I certainly wasn’t expecting to read the following: 

“Communal areas in Little India such as playgrounds and void decks should be fenced off to make sure “the old and young can get to use the space meant for them”, Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC) said. 

She said crowds in the area have returned to levels before the Dec 8, 2013 riot, and residents must be protected from “the disamenities that can arise from large gatherings”. 

She acknowledged the contributions of foreign workers, but added: “Congregations of such high density are walking time-bombs and public disorder incidents waiting to happen.” She also called for more recreation centres for foreign workers to be built outside Little India.”

After all, these are the foreign workers who have probably built the very public and private housing spaces, as well as commercial facilities that have made Singapore the financial success that it is today. But instead of considering their well-being, you wish to keep them out of the Singapore that they have built. Like another person currently running for the Republican nomination in the upcoming American presidential elections, you wish to build walls, not tear them down. 

An Open Letter to MP Denise Phua-am_il_v1001_i_b96776f5ad2731291bd5cc4d79188e3848_bc850f68f0a9eebdd8ff5d2b188e591a63

That attitude is disappointing. 

Although you’re not the first public servant to offer this sort of “them and us” opinion (let’s not forget the suggestion to build worker dormitories on a separate island, offered by a former member of government years ago), the fact that you think it’s an appropriate opinion and idea to bring it up in Parliament is shocking. 

Even more so when one considers that you are the supervisor of Pathlight School. One would think that as someone working in an education environment designed to support the socially challenged, you would have more sympathy for foreign workers who already often experience stigma and abuse from the small-minded. 

An Open Letter to MP Denise Phua-am_il_v1001_i_0a8e47a8ab98cc49565a8b888c3c294598_3da738229579af25e2e6fb9cb8af166416

I also find it ironic that in a speech delivered in Parliament on political salaries on January 16, 2012, you concluded your speech with the following line: “To heal our land, it is critical that each of us take the time and be open enough to find out and accept that there are other perspectives.” 

I wonder if you took the time to consider other perspectives before you decided to describe the many foreign staff in this country as “walking time bombs”. 

Singapore is a country built on immigrants, and yet your attitude today toward those who wish to find better fortunes for themselves and leave family and home to come to Singapore for work, awfully callous. 

I also wonder, when you use the term “foreign workers”, are you referring to all with a foreign passport, or just a select group? In that case, why and how do you choose to make this distinction? 

I’ve been trying to find out more about the opinions you’ve offered during past election campaigns when you ran in the Jalan Besar and Moulmein-Kallang GRCs, but there appear to be precious few. Perhaps this is a fault of the Group Representational Constituency system, where one need only look at one member of a group of politicians running and the others in the group can simply follow. However, that is a matter for the election committee to decide, and certainly distracting from this letter. 

I’m sure that myself and many others in Singapore disagree with your analysis of the situation. In fact, with every brick they lay, every building they construct, every road they pave, the foreign workers of Singapore contribute far more than you have. I do thank you for having done a lot in encouraging the Ministry of Education to support special needs programs for the autistic children. That is something very admirable. However, in your lambast of those who already have zero public representation and a minimal voice in our country, you have done Singaporeans injustice. 

You’ve asked us to consider your perspective. Now listen to ours. We do not want segregation, nor do we want tolerance. We would prefer to use the word “inclusion”, and use it regularly when referring to all of Singapore’s society, whether they be of a foreign background or local. 

Or perhaps, since my heritage is foreign a few generations ago, you’d also like to fence me outside of communal areas. 

written by.
An Open Letter to MP Denise Phua

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