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MPs took 'firm and unequivocal stance' against racism and xenophobia during debate about foreign labour: PM Lee

MPs took 'firm and unequivocal stance' against racism and xenophobia during debate about foreign labour: PM Lee

People wearing protective face masks cross the road at Church Street on Sept 6, 2021. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday (Sep 15) that he was glad that Members of Parliament (MPs) took a "firm and unequivocal stance against racism and xenophobia" during a 10-hour debate in Parliament.

The MPs "firmly rejected attempts to use Singaporeans’ fears and anxieties to divide and weaken us", said Mr Lee in a Facebook post, adding that it "bodes well" for Singapore's future.

Early Wednesday morning, Parliament passed a motion by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on securing Singaporeans' jobs and livelihoods, after a 10-hour debate that started on Tuesday afternoon and carried on past midnight. 

Parliament also rejected a competing motion by NCMP Leong Mun Wai (PSP), who called on the Government to "take urgent and concrete action to address widespread anxiety among Singaporeans on jobs and livelihoods caused by the foreign talent policy".

The motions were debated together but voted on separately.

Mr Lee said that the 10-hour debate was important.

"At stake were not just our policies on foreigners, but the values of our society, and our confidence and resolve to face an uncertain world, and chart our way forward together," he said. 

"Foreigners who live and work here contribute to our economy and society. They are very much a part of our local community," the Prime Minister added.

Mr Wong's motion acknowledged Singaporeans' anxieties about jobs and competition in a "globalised and fast-changing economy", while affirming Singapore's need to stay open to the world.

It also asked Parliament to support the Government's actions to manage the foreign manpower population and to update its policies to secure the well-being and livelihoods of Singaporeans.

The motion also deplored "attempts to spread misinformation about free trade agreements like the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), stir up racism and xenophobia, and cause fear and anxiety amongst Singaporeans".

Mr Leong denied that there were “racist and xenophobic undertones” to his arguments against foreign professionals and FTAs, including CECA. 

"Our policies on foreign workers have created many jobs and opportunities. Still, Singaporeans are anxious and concerned about competition from the foreigners working here," said Mr Lee. 

"We are addressing these concerns, and the problems caused by having a large foreign population in our midst."

Singapore must remain open and welcoming to foreigners, he added.

"If we turn inwards and become hostile to them, it would ruin us as a global hub and cost us investments and jobs," said Mr Lee. 

Source: CNA/lk

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