SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (May 10) said he was "disappointed and seriously concerned" by an alleged racist attack on a woman for not wearing her mask while brisk walking.
He said in a Facebook post that the attack "goes against everything that our multiracial society stands for, and the mutual respect and racial harmony that we hold so dear".
He added: "It harms our international reputation more than we realise.
"I understand people being under stress because of Covid-19, and anxious about their jobs and families. But that does not justify racist attitudes and actions, much less physically abusing and assaulting someone because she belongs to a particular race, in this case, Indian. The victim happens to be a Singaporean, but even had she not been one, the attack would still have been wrong and shameful."
PM Lee said he was confident the police will establish the facts and bring the perpetrator to justice.
He said: "There is no place for such behaviour here. We must stand united against racism."
Several other ministers also commented on the incident in their Facebook posts on Monday evening, calling it "disturbing" and "unacceptable".
Madam Hindocha Nita Vishnubhai, 55, said she was brisk walking from Choa Chu Kang MRT station towards the stadium at about 8.30am last Friday when the alleged incident took place.
The private tutor, an Indian Singaporean, had a run-in with a man believed to be in his late 20s, who shouted racial slurs at her for not wearing her mask above her nose and kicked her in the chest before running away with a woman who was accompanying him.
Madam Nita suffered scratches on her arm and hands due to the incident and lodged a police report on Friday night.
In a Facebook post, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said: "Based on the lady's version, this seems to be a racist, xenophobic attack. Unacceptable."
Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, in her post, urged the public to keep in mind Singapore's core value of unity as a society.
She said: "While Covid-19 has brought out the best in people in difficult situations, with many coming forward to help those in need, it is unfortunate that discriminatory behaviour and even violent xenophobic attacks stemming from fear and intolerance have also been witnessed around the world.
"We felt indignant when Asians were attacked merely because of their race in other countries. Let us not allow such behaviour to take root here. As we battle this unprecedented pandemic, it is more important than ever for our communities to band together and foster stronger cohesion."
Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung, Second Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Tan Kiat How also weighed in on the incident in separate social media posts.
Mr Ong said: "Any of us would have been horrified to hear of Asians in other countries being targeted in violent hate crimes due to Covid-19. Now we see verbal and even physical abuses against members of Indian community here in Singapore.
"This is deeply troubling. This is not Singapore and what we stand for. It is only by standing together that we can beat this virus. Discrimination and racism is worse than the virus."