MP says sorry for remarks about foreign workers

CENTRAL SINGAPORE DISTRICT MAYOR DENISE PHUA
CENTRAL SINGAPORE DISTRICT MAYOR DENISE PHUA

Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua apologised yesterday for her choice of words in Parliament that were criticised online as being insensitive to foreign workers.

Ms Phua, an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, said 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," she wrote.

She added that she gets on very well with foreign cleaners in her 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.

APOLOGY FOR CHOICE OF WORDS

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

To...foreign workers in our country, thank you for your help and please accept my sincere apology if I have caused you concern.

CENTRAL SINGAPORE DISTRICT MAYOR DENISE PHUA

In a speech on Wednesday during the debate on the Home Affairs Ministry's plans, she suggested that communal areas in Little India such as playgrounds and void decks be fenced off so that old and young residents 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 in her speech, 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), for instance, said labelling foreign workers "walking time-bombs" further stigmatises an already marginalised group.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Home said that while it understood the need to maintain law and order, helping foreign workers feel included was just as important.

Barriers to communal areas would only deepen the divide between residents and foreign workers, it added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2016, with the headline 'MP says sorry for remarks about foreign workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe