Thursday 17 October 2013

Singapore Day in Sydney meant for Singaporeans and their families

Aussie claims discrimination at Singapore Day 2013 event
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 16 Oct 2013

THE Overseas Singaporean Unit has responded to the claims of an Australian man who said he and his father were turned away from a Singapore Day event in Sydney because they were Caucasian.

A spokesman for the OSU, which comes under the Prime Minister's Office, said guests at Saturday's event had to possess a ticket and register in advance for crowd and catering purposes.

The Straits Times understands that the duo did not have a ticket and had not registered. The man, known only as "James", rang Australian radio station 2GB on Monday to say he and his father were turned away because they "were not Singaporean".

He added that people of Asian descent seemed to be allowed in. DJ Ben Fordham, who took James' call, said such discrimination was "disgraceful".

Australian newspaper The Daily Telegraph also reported that callers said "white people were turned away in droves".

Singapore Day, which aims to keep citizens overseas emotionally connected to Singapore, has been held in cities like New York and Shanghai.

University of Sydney student Goh Xiu Ling, 21, said: "This is not an event to promote tourism in Singapore but to maintain a strong sense of identity among Singaporeans. It would defeat the purpose if anyone could walk in."

Event host Hossan Leong said: "A private event is exactly what it means. If one was to rent a space in the gardens for a wedding, would you crash it?"

Royal Botanic Gardens' deputy executive director Brett Summerell told The Telegraph that he would "see if it's appropriate for the Botanic Gardens to be involved with (OSU) in the future".

But he told The Straits Times that he received only three phone complaints about people being excluded, and that it was protocol to review all events anyway.

The event, held in the city for the first time, attracted more than 6,000 Singaporeans.

Foreigners who pre-registered could attend Singapore Day in Sydney: OSU
Overseas Singaporean Unit makes clarification following claims of racism by Caucasian
By Xue Jianyue, TODAY, 16 Oct 2013

The National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) has clarified news reports on the claims of a Caucasian who was purportedly turned away at this year’s Singapore Day carnival in Sydney.

The man, who identified himself only as James, contacted Australian radio station 2GB on Monday, saying he and his father were twice denied entry to the annual event, held at Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens last Saturday, because they were Caucasians.

His claims that the organisers were “racist” because “hundreds of non-Caucasian people primarily of Asian background” were let in without identity checks were reported by several foreign media outlets, among them Yahoo! and Australia’s The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun.

But the Overseas Singaporean Unit (OSU) — a directorate under the NPTD of the Prime Minister’s Office — which organises the annual party that is aimed at engaging Singaporeans abroad, clarified in a statement yesterday that the event was for Singaporeans and their families. Pre-registration is needed for the purposes of crowd control and catering.

Nonetheless, non-Singaporeans who were pre-registered could attend, said an OSU spokesperson.

“Singaporeans could (take) a guest who might be non-Singaporean along, and attend with family members who are non-Singaporeans,” he said.

“Singapore Day 2013 was attended by Singaporeans, their family members and friends, (who were) of all races.”

TODAY understands that James was not a guest of any Singaporean living in Australia.

Although he claimed on the radio show that advertisements on the event did not mention it was exclusive to Singaporeans, some of those debating the matter on social media refuted his claim, saying the information was listed on the OSU website. Others noted that photos from the event showed many Caucasians had attended it.

Singapore Day has been held in various major cities with a sizeable Singaporean community since 2007 to “bring a slice of home to Singaporeans abroad to keep them emotionally connected to the Republic”. New York, Melbourne, London and Shanghai have been some of the venues.

About 6,200 people attended this year’s Singapore Day, including Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

According to data from the NPTD, some 200,000 Singaporeans — a 27 per cent increase from 157,000 in 2003 — live overseas.

Most are working abroad and living with their families in Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and China.

Guard against the tyranny of the minority
By Rachel Chang, The Sunday Times, 20 Oct 2013

Sometimes I feel like Tocqueville got it backwards. It's not the tyranny of the majority we have to guard against, but that of the minority.

It's one Australian - "James" - labelling a Singapore Day event in Sydney xenophobic because they turned him, a white guy, away.

Never mind that it was a ticketed, private event which he had neither been invited to nor registered for.

Logic will not stand in the way of those filled with the fervour of their own subjective, unrepresentative beliefs.

That's nothing new, of course. But somehow, these isolated individuals - or groups - have now found it within their power to ruin things for everyone else.

I'm sure that those 6,000 Singaporeans in Sydney still had a good time, but it's extremely dismaying that one person's unresearched views could result in media coverage and become the only thing that some Australians have heard about Singapore Day in Australia.

At a sadder extreme are those Tea Party Republicans who first ruined things for other Americans by shutting their government down a few weeks ago, then almost succeeding in dragging down the entire world as well through a US debt default.

Never mind that their reason for doing so was hatred of a health-care law that has been passed by Congress and deemed constitutional by the United States Supreme Court.

What's at work is a sort of overweening conviction in one's own view as the be-all and end-all.

Whatever happened to self-doubt, or its good friend, a second opinion?

Here is where the tyranny of the minority has come into its own because some people or groups have somehow managed to wall themselves off from the moderate minority in a way that all the second opinions they get egg them on, or worse, escalate things.

The only reason these Republicans could carry on the way they were carrying on is that they never have to face a national, representative electorate: Some of the districts they come from have been gerrymandered into silos of ultra-conservative voters.

In the Sydney Singapore Day incident as well, the person truly at fault in my view was the radio DJ who reacted to James' complaints about xenophobia by saying it was "disgraceful" - rather than, say, asking if it was a ticketed, private event that an unregistered, ticketless person had no business being at. Instead of holding a mirror up to someone's idiocy, why not magnify it?

I blame a strange cult of self- empowerment and conviction that has developed in recent years. This is the one where we really, really over-valorise resolve, believing in yourself and "standing your ground".

But what if you are wrong and the ground you're standing on is riddled with inaccuracy?

The subliminal messaging is nestled deep in our pop culture. We are told, for example, to Just Do It, rather than Just Sleep On It and Consult Others such as parents and valued mentors.

We are told that a small, committed group of people is the only thing that has ever effected change - without the caveat that a lack of numbers should mostly be taken as a sign.

Somehow, it has become surrender to compromise and weak to hear out an opposing view and acknowledge its value. There's very little room for self-reflection and self-improvement in all this.

I see it in myself and my peers. We have a tendency to meet criticism with defiance and defensiveness: "haters gonna hate", rather than "haters may have a point and I should re-evaluate and try to address this area of weakness".

It's this kind of thing that has led people such as James the Australian to think of their opinions as valuable to anyone beyond their mothers and worthy of broadcast.

It seems strange that this is all unfolding in an inter-connected, globalised world. Surely being exposed to the reach, spread and scope of the universe should make us realise how truly small and insignificant we each are.

But as it turns out, it's only made us think of our egos as having reach, spread and scope. It's enough to make one wish for the days of mob rule.

At least then, we could go after James and those Tea Party Republicans with flaming torches and clubs or something.

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