Aussie claims discrimination at S'pore Day event

Aussie claims discrimination at S'pore Day event
Singapore Day is an event organised by the Overseas Singaporean Unit under the Prime Minister's Office to engage Overseas Singaporeans and their families. Held in cities with a significant community of Overseas Singaporeans, it is a single-day annual event designed to give Singaporeans a "slice of home while overseas" through food, performances, information updates on the situation in Singapore and career options to entice them to return to the country.

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.

"Singaporeans could bring along a guest who might be non-Singaporean, and also attend with family members who are non-Singaporeans," said the spokesman.

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.

rachelay@sph.com.sg


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