'Not all foreigners are like Mr Casey'

SINGAPORE - Mr Niclas Hansemark has been on the hunt for a job here for the past three months, and is keen to be a permanent resident.

But the 32-year-old Swede fears that the recent Anton Casey furore may dampen his chances of securing both. "I was sad, upset and angry at what he said," he says.

"Mr Casey is clearly well-to-do, and his comments may not affect him and his little world, but I feel the episode may exacerbate the anti-foreigner sentiments here, which I consider to be quite high currently," says Mr Hansemark, a former analyst for a ship brokering company and a Japanese recruitment firm.

"The Ministry of Manpower is already tightening the foreign workforce controls, and although the job ads don't explicitly say it, I get the sense many of them are looking for locals."

Mr Hansemark has been in Singapore for the three years and applied for permanent residency last year. He was rejected.

He then wrote to the Ministry of Defence, asking if performing national service would raise his chances.

Caucasians like himself already stand out because of how they look, he says, which is why he puts an emphasis of being a good example.

Referring to Mr Casey's remarks, Mr Hansemark says: "It could have been his British humour, but someone may pick up the words and take it as 100 per cent fact. I wish Caucasians wouldn't do such things. We should be more mindful that what we say may hurt other people."

Mr Ben Wightman, an American permanent resident here, points out that not all foreigners or Caucasians here are like Mr Casey.

The 36-year-old client service director at a marketing agency says he does not agree with the Briton's comments, but was relatively unperturbed.

"I wasn't quite sure why it became such a big deal," he says.

"I was rather dismissive because to me, it was an arrogant, pretentious thing he said. It's not the opinion of someone I would respect."

While the expat community has not experienced significant backlash because of the episode, Mr Casey's post has gone viral within it, says Mr Scott Moore, a Canadian.

"Those in the expat community are just as outraged, if not more, than the Singaporeans," says the 24-year-old oil and gas consultant.

"It's too bad he made those comments and dragged his son and family in with him."

Referring to Mr Casey's comment that those who take public transport are "poor", Mr Moore says: "He seems like a smart guy. He should know that Singapore has one of the highest Gross Domestic Product rates in the world."

The expats The New Paper on Sunday spoke to are quick to point out that not all foreigners share Mr Casey's sentiments.

"People are people. It's not a matter of race or economic status," says Mr Damien Cummings, regional vice president and chief marketing officer at Phillips ASEAN & Pacific.

"This is a case of a guy making offensive comments about people generally. People are fair and reasonable, and they understand that this is one guy's arrogant point of view, not the point of view of all non-Singaporeans."

Mr Casey's remarks not only made headlines here, but were also picked up by foreign news outlets such as The Independent and The Huffington Post.

While it was surprising that his remarks received international attention, it is understandable, says Mr Cummings, an Australian permanent resident who has been in Singapore for the past six years.

"The widening gap between the rich and poor, and foreigners in Singapore are hot topics these days," he adds.

In spite of the recent negativity, the expats TNPS spoke to are also full of praise for local culture and the public transport system.

Says Mr Hansemark: "The MRT is an affordable mode of transport, and quite frankly, I'm a big fan. I'm excited whenever a new MRT line opens."

Mr Wightman, who lives in an HDB flat just five minutes away from Bedok MRT, says: "It's a lot easier to integrate in Singapore than in many other countries.

"My wife is a new citizen. The people here are very hospitable and have always made us feel welcome."

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