Denise Phua apologises over remarks in Parliament on large groups of foreign workers

Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua wrote in a Facebook post that she had no intention to undermine any specific group.
Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua wrote in a Facebook post that she had no intention to undermine any specific group. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua apologised on Friday over her choice of words in Parliament that have been criticised for being insensitive to foreign workers.

Ms Phua, an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, wrote in a Facebook post that she had no intention to undermine any specific group.

"I should not have used the phrase 'walking time-bombs' to describe congregations of high density.

"I personally get along very well with the foreign cleaners in my constituency. To them and the other foreign workers in our country, thank you for your help and please accept my sincere apology if I have caused you concern," she said.

In her speech during the Ministry of Home Affairs' budget on Wednesday, she had suggested that communal areas in Little India such as playgrounds and void decks should be fenced off so that the old and the young get to use the spaces meant for them.

Ms Phua said crowds in the area have returned to levels before the Dec 8, 2013 Little India riot, and residents must be protected from "the disamenities that can arise from large gatherings". While she acknowledged the contributions of foreign workers, she added: "Congregations of such high density are walking time-bombs and public disorder incidents waiting to happen."

She also called for more recreation centres for foreign workers to be built outside Little India.

Her initial remarks attracted some criticism online.

Migrant worker advocacy group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday that labelling foreign workers as "walking time-bombs" further stigmatises an already marginalised group.

In the post, Home added that while it understood the need to maintain law and order, creating an inclusive environment for foreign workers was just as important and public amenities should be open to all.

"Instead of building barriers, we should find ways to facilitate the co-existence of the residents of the area and the workers," it added.