Why Denise Phua’s speech to fence areas in Little India is so stupid

Has MP Denise Phua been watching too many speeches by Donald Trump? Was she inspired by Donald Trump’s proposed great wall on the US-Mexico border? Perhaps that’s why she suggested to “ring-fence he Communal Areas of Residents such as the playgrounds and void decks so that the old and the young get to use the space meant for them”.

In the speech where she made that suggestion, she also called “congregations of such high density (of foreign workers from India) are walking time-bombs and public disorder incidents waiting to happen.”

That’s the first stupid thing about her speech. Using the phrase “walking time-bombs”.

Yes. She didn’t specifically say that foreign workers from India are walking time-bombs. But. You know. In this day and age of heightened sensitivity due to terrorist bombings around the world, the words “walking time-bombs” conjure up images of people wearing bomb-filled vests blowing people up.

As expected, using such explosive language drew the quick ire of many netizens. Some got quite creative.

Denise Phua

Sensing that her political career could be blown to shreds, she quickly apologised.

I can understand why Ms Phua would have felt compelled to speak about this issue. She’s MP of Jalan Besar, where Little India falls within. She probably had some residents stomping down to her MPS to complain about how the foreign workers are “creating trouble”, or “causing inconvenience”. So. Like any good MP, she had to speak in Parliament to show her residents that she’s working hard for them.


How many of her residents actually feel that the foreign workers in Little India over the weekends are causing problems? A great majority? Or just a small vocal minority?

There will always be that small vocal minority who have super-sized sense of entitlement. A friend of mine who’s a police officer told me of a very interesting experience he had once. The police station he worked in got a call. It was someone complaining about a group of foreign workers drinking in the void deck and making a lot of noise.

So my friend and his partner went to investigate. Turned out, it was a group of three Indian men drinking at the void deck. They weren’t foreign workers. They were Singaporeans. Yes. They were talking and laughing. But they were generally just keeping to themselves, not making a mess of the surroundings. Oh. And mind you. This incident happened on a Sunday afternoon. AFTERNOON.

So the three Indian men asked why they were being questioned. My friend said that the police received a complaint. So they had to check it out. But since the three men weren’t doing anything wrong, my friend didn’t take any further action. Upon getting back to the police station, the same caller called again, screaming into the phone about how the group was still there drinking and being a public nuisance, etc etc and about how the police were derelict in their duties, threatening to go to the MP.

What did the police do? Thankfully, the decided to ignore that caller.

Thing is. There are Singaporeans with super-sized sense of self-entitlement who think that their convenience is paramount. Everyone else’s rights be damned. Should we do anything just because these people kick up a fuss? If we do, what sort of a society are we?

On a more practical note. It’s stupid to think that ring-fencing communal areas would work. You mean you build a fence then people, foreign workers or otherwise, won’t go into those areas meh? Or are you going to have a gate with locks? Then what? Only residents get the keys? All residents? Or one household one key? Or you mean you create gated communities? Like condominiums? Then need to have security guard at the gate? Who pays for the security guards? Unless Ms Phua was thinking of turning all the HDB estates in that area into condominiums, her idea, even on a practical level, is utterly stupid.

So her idea is stupid on two levels. First, it shows a lapse in empathy and humanity. Second, it shows a lapse in common sense. Either ways, her idea is just stupid.

And to all the foreign workers working in Singapore, whether you are from India, PRC, or wherever. I know. It’s not easy working so hard so far away from home, away from your loved ones, away from all that is familiar. It’s not easy being looked down on, being treated like you don’t belong. I know. Because I’ve (sort of) been through what you are going through.

My suggestion. Don’t be bothered by stupid things like what Ms Phua said or what other mean, inconsiderate, hurtful things a minority of Singaporeans say.  Do you best to acclimatise and be familiar with the social norms in Singapore. Be polite and courteous. We will do our best to treat you with dignity and respect. And thank you for all the hard work you have done!

[Featured image: Denise Phua speaking in Parliament. Image from CNA]


4 thoughts on “Why Denise Phua’s speech to fence areas in Little India is so stupid

  1. I don’t think those foreign guest workers are reading this. They would be busy at work; in jobs we ourselves would not do. How very convenient to forget that we are also descendants of foreigners from other lands. My father came from India in the 40s.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The reality is that any large group of drinkers, out in the public, is a sort of danger. As one of the aristocratic leaders of our realm, she ought to know a better way to phrase the “hard fact.”

    Liked by 1 person

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