Thursday, 12 December 2013

Little India Riot: The 9/11 of Singapore?

Yes. I am talking about the impact, the shock and the aftermath. Certainly, I am not referring it to terrorist attack or religion issues.

After so many peaceful years, we suddenly have to face a (long existence) new reality – a product of our very successful economic model

The investigation should go beyond a Committee of Inquiry.  It should be a Commission Report like the 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT#1 in the United States. It cannot stay put at the technical level like the COI of SMRT bus strike.  It should touch on the cultural aspects, the humanity, and the sociology besides the psychology of mob and riot. It basically calls for a re-think of our cheap and low-cost labor driven economic model.

The 9/11 Report details the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.  Besides this, it has many chapters on the development and background information of the terrorist movements. It also highlights and covers a lot of background issues and problems inside the US government operations and co-ordinations. As a result, the Department of Homeland Security was created in the States (and Singapore also followed later by setting up a Co-coordinating Minister for National Security.)   

However, Little India Riot is not a terrorist attack.  It is our own problem and we have to solve it ourselves. There is no learning curve. Looking at the way the police conducts the search for more suspects island-wide and the ban of alcohol over the weekend in Little India, it looks more like Singapore is facing a national security issue. The call for clam and classified it as an isolated incident are another acknowledgments of the seriousness of the riot.

Learning from 9/11 Report

The COI on Little India riot really cannot do much as it has limited power to interview the top. The top leaders must also come under scrutiny for certain policy and strategy options that may lead to the unfortunate incident.  

In USA, the 9/11 Commission was empowered to interview everyone in America, including the President.  The Commission interviewed President, Vice-President, secretaries of state, defense and other departments, and many other senior government officials and military officers. If you look at the 9/11 Report, you will know what I mean.

However, as the PAP government has downplayed the riot and its impact. The COI will not be able to tell us the views of our senior political leaders and senior government officials including top Police officers.  So, I am afraid the COI only gives a partial story of the riot – the face fact of the so-called isolated incident.

Not to forget the 9/11 Report is a bi-partisan product.  You can’t blame the other side for any wrong doing or gain any political advantage. While in Singapore, the COI on riot will certainly produce different political implication because it is a PAP product.     

Old school thinking of inclusiveness

By setting up a COI for the Little India Riot is a continuation of old school thinking.  It shows the PAP still wants to solve problems within its own rank, within its own capability and ignored the public interest at large. It still believes it is the only party capable to solve all problems in Singapore.

In fact, the timing is right for the PAP as it has just shifted its focus (back) to “democratic socialism”.  Why doesn’t the PAP use this opportunity to tell Singaporeans and foreigners in an honest way how to move forward?  “Our new way forward: A call for action.” Yes, we want to see the action. An action goes beyond COI.
However, even the government is willing to set up a commission to investigate the riot, I am afraid Singapore alone has no expertise in language, culture and customs in coming out a report like the level of 9/11 Commission Report.   

We basically have very little knowledge on foreign workers and foreign maids.  We just treat them as cheap labor. So, how can we invest money in understanding them? We even want to isolate them and house them in an island.

After the 9/11 Report, there are more investment and funding in the USA for Arabic language and studies, Islamic study, terrorist study and even broadcasting in Arabic language.

Residence and non-residence

Different from many foreign countries, we have not considered foreign workers as residents. They are on work permits. They are not talents so they can’t be PRs.  
In the very first days when they enter into Singapore, they are already different.  We consider them as substitutable goods. When they become expensive, we source for cheaper alternatives. With this in mind, where is the belongingness?

If I may bring in another example, the rich-poor gap in Singapore is already a concern. The PAP’s new way of socialism is to tackle this problem. Only now, the PAP wants to take serious action to solve this lower income Singaporeans problem. So, where do they find time and mean to consider the problems of more than one million foreign workers in Singapore?

The best way is to isolate them.  But Singapore is so small, how can we isolate foreign workers in a humanity way?

Love and not hate

In his speech to the Congress after the 9/11, former President Bush asked:

[Americans are asking ``Why do they hate us?''] #2

Because of ‘hate’, Bush went on for more military built ups and wars.  Hate cannot solve the problem, we should ask: why don’t they love us? (As Singapore has given them opportunities to earn more income to support their families back home?)

I don’t think the COI on Little India Riot can suggest and convince the PAP government to come out with a Love strategy for foreign workers.    

This is why a more powerful, multi-party and national-wide Commission is needed.  But will the PAP listen?



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