Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made a rare comment on racial enmity in Singapore, denouncing a recent alleged attack on a woman in Choa Chu Kang.
Hours after the police confirmed that they were investigating the assault of 55-year-old Hindocha Nita Vishnubhai, Lee late last night denounced the alleged perpetrator’s behavior. He called on Singaporeans to stand united against racism, saying that it “harms our international reputation more than we realize.”
“I am very disappointed and seriously concerned that this racist attack could happen in Singapore,” Lee wrote online. “I understand people being under stress because of COVID-19, and anxious about their jobs and families. But that does not justify racist attitudes and actions, much less physically abusing and assaulting someone because she belongs to a particular race, in this case Indian.”
He added that the attack would be wrong even if the woman was not Singaporean, and that he was confident that the police would establish the facts of the case and “bring the perpetrator to justice.”
The incident was recounted by Nita’s daughter, identified only as @Parrvyy on Instagram, in a post that circulated over the weekend.
The woman suffered bruises on her left hand after she was kicked to the ground while brisk walking through Choa Chu Kang on Friday morning, her daughter wrote online. The incident happened after the man accused the woman of not wearing a face mask, even though it was not required she was exercising, she added. After being told off, the man reportedly kicked the woman’s chest, causing her to fall to the ground, she said. A police report was filed that night.
The daughter has not responded to online queries for comment since yesterday.
Other politicians, including Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, also reacted to the incident, touching on xenophobia.
“While #COVID19 has brought out the best in people in difficult situations, with many coming forward to help those in need, it is unfortunate that discriminatory behaviour and even violent xenophobic attacks stemming from fear and intolerance have also been witnessed around the world,” Fu wrote online yesterday.
Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung described the attack as “deeply troubling” adding that “discrimination and racism are worse than the virus.”
Xenophobia has proven especially virulent amid pandemic anxiety.
Earlier this month, an Indian expat family was filmed arguing with a Singaporean man at Pasir Ris Park after the latter allegedly said “bloody Indians.” The man was also heard boasting about being Singaporean and serving in the army before shouting, “Don’t come and spread the virus!”
India has become the global crucible for the coronavirus pandemic after infections exploded there recently. Several new infections in Singapore, including those linked to the Tan Tock Seng Hospital cluster, were linked to the coronavirus variant discovered in India.
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