Welcome visitors or risk lowering our standing in the world. That was the stark message to Singaporeans from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.
He made the comments in a Facebook post on the controversy surrounding a plan to celebrate Philippine independence day at Ngee Ann City on June 8, and the way some Singaporeans have opposed it.
He wrote that he supported Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, who had earlier called for a stand against bigotry and "repulsive" peddlers of hate.
Mr Lee also used strong language against what he said appeared to be the work of a "few trolls".
He wrote that he was appalled to read of those who had harassed the organisers of the Philippine independence day event.
"They are a disgrace to Singapore," he wrote.
At the same time, Mr Lee was "heartened that many sensible Singaporeans condemn this thuggish behaviour".
Like Mr Tan, he drew a parallel with the experiences of Singaporeans overseas.
"We must treat people in Singapore the way we ourselves expect to be treated overseas. Many Singaporeans live overseas, and are warmly welcomed in their adopted homes," Mr Lee wrote.
"I just attended our Singapore Day in London. How would we have felt if British netizens had spammed our website, and abused Singaporeans living in Britain?"
The negative comments from Singaporeans had come after the Philippine organisers posted an announcement of the event on Facebook, many of them on a page that campaigns against "an overpopulated Singapore". The organisers were also reportedly harassed by anonymous callers.
Mr Lee wrote: "We must show that we are generous of spirit and welcome visitors into our midst, even as we manage the foreign population here.
"Otherwise we will lower our standing in the eyes of the world, and have every reason to be ashamed of ourselves."
This article was published on April 20 in The New Paper.
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