‘No room for racism in Singapore’

There can be “no ifs or buts” when it comes to racism, said opposition leader Pritam Singh, stressing that those who hold such views should reflect deeply on how these can hurt themselves and those around them.

“Bigoted views, even if privately held, have a nasty habit of showing themselves up opportunistically in day-to-day circumstances, ” he added in a lengthy Facebook post on Tuesday.

The Workers’ Party (WP) chief made these comments in the wake of a Facebook video showing ice cream store owner Dave Parkash, 26, and his girlfriend, Jacqueline Ho, 27, a user experience designer, being harassed by Ngee Ann Polytechnic lecturer Tan Boon Lee in Orchard Road on Saturday.

Tan, 60, who has since been suspended from work and is assisting police with investigations, had berated Parkash, who is of Indian and Filipino parentage, and told him it was a disgrace for a Chinese woman and an Indian man to be dating.

He accused Parkash of “preying on a Chinese girl”, adding that the “Chinese don’t like it”, and also told off Ho, who is part-Thai and part-Singaporean Chinese.

Ho filmed the exchange and Parkash uploaded it online.

He said he wanted to raise awareness that racism still exists here.

In his post, Pritam Singh said while everyone is entitled to their private views, as a multiracial and multicultural secular society, the public space is a shared space for all Singaporeans to participate actively in – regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation and so on.

“Should we not as a society call out bigoted private views with a view to make the public space safer and accommodative for all?” he said.

Calling out such views would be a learning opportunity to self-reflect, unpack preconceived notions, and determine what sort of society the city-state aspires towards, he said.

Pritam Singh noted that the “determined yet restrained” response to Tan’s diatribe from all segments of society – including politicians as well as the general public – represents a silver lining.

This swift backlash shows that such views are not acceptable in Singapore today, he said.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing and Culture, Community and Youth Minister Edwin Tong had earlier spoken out to condemn Tan’s actions.

WP MP Leon Perera added that he was glad Parkash had drawn attention to the altercation as such incidents can shape society’s attitude towards topics such as race. — The Straits Times/ANN

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