It is unfortunate that the riot – the first in 44 years – occurred in Singapore yesterday.
For many Singaporeans, the riot took some by surprise, used to the restrained and subdued environment.
Indeed, the riot is not a small matter – a foreign worker of South Asian descent was fatally knocked down by a bus, which triggered an outrage to the sense of grievance of those who had witnessed it.
This is a challenging episode, not only for Singaporeans, but for our foreign friends as well. The actions of some cannot be seen as representative for the actions of all, as Singaporeans and foreigners alike have expressed concern for the fervour of the actions.
For the people who live in the area and were at the venue where the incident took place, their safety is of utmost importance and it is a relief that the incident did not take a more malevolent turn.
The question on many people’s minds now would be – why did the commotion take place? What had engendered such feelings of sorrow and injustice as to begrudge the actions of those who had participated in the riot?
Indeed, this is a time for our nation to take a step back to introspect and reflect on what had happened yesterday. How has the state of our country become, such that the anger and unfairness that has swept our land have caused emotions to increasingly flare up?
Perhaps, it is to be expected that when we pay such pittance wages to people who have helped built our country – our buildings and roads – and yet expect them to toil in the most tiresome conditions while receiving such piecemeal compensation, that the stress that has built up has finally boiled over.
Is it not that when we look at the stresses that we go through in our own lives and understand how our hands feel tied, that we can thus empathise with the lives of others who live in the doldrums.
The inequality that has taken root in Singapore has dire consequences and they are beginning to show. The peace and happiness that we have so hard-fought can be easily dismantled by the divide that threatens to tear our society apart. Our people – Singaporeans – are trying our best to hold our society together, to carry on with the smiles and the cheers, while we do our best to fight back the tears.
Now, in the time of change, in the major turning point in our country’s history, Singaporeans need to take a stand. Violence is not the option. But neither is inaction. We cannot let our country run into the ground. And we cannot let the efforts of our forefathers go to waste.
We need to take a stand against the unfairness that we do not believe our people need to go through. And we need to be fair to others, if fairness is to come to us. We can no longer sit back and watch the inequality drive wedges into our society.
The peace that our country and Singaporeans have enjoyed for decades can and must be protected. The peace that our forefathers have fought for their future generations must be a responsibility that we take on for our next, and theirs. For the peace in Singapore to continue and for our people to continue to flourish, our people – Singaporeans – we need to believe that the rights of ours, and not just that, but for everyone that we bring into this country, has to be protected. We have to stand with one another, fervent in our commitment to one another. We need to protect and enshrine the rights of the person next to us – our family, our neighbours and our friends. Only then shall our society continue for decades and centuries more, in peace, and in contentment.
What happened yesterday need not have happened. But it did, and it was a reminder that the peace in our country is something that we need to constantly work together for. If we can believe and work together towards unity for our country, and for equality, the peace that we have always pride ourselves on will continue to be the hallmark of Singapore’s success as a country and as our people.
Yesterday, Singapore saw one the first riot in many years. Today, we will embark on a path towards a new learning, and a new tomorrow. Let’s continue to support and give thanks to our civil defence for protecting our safety, as they had done yesterday. Today, let’s journey together to work towards a more equal, and peaceful society for Singapore, for Singaporeans, and our future.