Forge closer ties instead of harping on cultural attitudes

Forge closer ties instead of harping on cultural attitudes
The chaotic scene at Race course Road during the Little India Riot.

I concur with the view that the cultural divide between foreign workers and local service providers and law enforcement should be bridged to prevent the likes of the riot that took place in Little India last year (" 'Misunderstandings intensified rioters' fury' " and "Lessons learnt to make sure S'pore stays safe", both published last Tuesday; and " 'Bridge cultural divide' to avoid friction seen in riot", last Wednesday).

There is a great urgency to expand the trust and understanding between foreign workers and Singaporeans as a whole so that misperceptions and misunderstandings can be minimised.

This is vital because foreign workers come here at great sacrifice to help build our roads, houses and other infrastructure - jobs that are generally shunned by Singaporeans.

Fuelled by ignorance, cultural attitudes and ethnic practices inevitably lead to negative stereotyping and prejudice.

I believe that the settings of public life - where people with dissimilar backgrounds and attitudes can meet and learn to not only tolerate but also, more importantly, understand and appreciate one another's beliefs, lifestyles, cultural practices and social norms - should be expanded.

This is the surest way to achieve a sense of community spirit and, consequently, greater cohesion, integration and racial harmony.

It is heartening to see migrant blue-collar workers coming forward to volunteer their services well beyond the arduous work they handle at construction sites and other workplaces ("Migrant workers spend rest days volunteering"; Jan 6).

Their willingness to give back to society and forge better relationships with Singaporeans will certainly help to break down barriers of negative stereotypes and prejudices.

A climate of healthy participation in Singapore's progress can prevail only when we refrain from harping on cultural attitudes and stereotyping particular groups of people.

Treating one another with mutual respect and dignity, regardless of background, augurs well for our progress and stability.

In this respect, it is reassuring that the Government is taking pains to celebrate ethnic diversity and its cultural manifestations.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)

This article was first published on July 07, 2014.
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