Parliament: 'Racist' attack on Indian woman condemned by both sides of House

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Singapore's Parliament House. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
Singapore's Parliament House. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Members of Parliament on both sides of the House on Tuesday (11 May) condemned the alleged racist attack on a 55-year-old Indian woman last week.

"Investigations need to be done before we can come to any conclusions, but such conduct, unfortunately is consistent with some of the other things that have been happening. And the facts are, as stated by the lady, that it appears to be racist conduct," said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam in Parliament.

The incident, which took place last Friday morning, saw the victim – private tutor Hindocha Nita Vishnubhai – being kicked in the chest by a man for not wearing her mask properly.

Citing racist attacks on Asians overseas amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Shanmugam noted that there have been "parties" here deliberately "stoking (people's) fears, encouraging racism and xenophobia, and dog whistling, much like what we have seen in the US".

"Expression of overt racism is still only amongst a minority in Singapore. The majority of Singaporeans are decent, and not racist. But if we continue to fan the flames of racism, we will get to a more uncomfortable position," he added.

Shanmugam also pointed to certain websites that "deliberately fan racism". 

"They are anti-Government, and that is perfectly OK, but don’t play with race. Comments on these sites have Indians being called 'cockroaches', 'rapists' and so on. We should be ashamed, that in the name of free speech, we allow such comments," he noted.

Calling on all Members of Parliament to condemn such racist behaviour, Shanmugam also asked Opposition parties to take a stand "notwithstanding that many of these sites that promote xenophobia support you".

Speaking after Shanmugam, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh expressed The Workers' Party's support for the minister's statement about the attack. "Indeed, we are in agreement. There is no place for racism in Singapore; no ifs, no buts," he said.

Details of the attack

Elaborating on the details of the attack, Shanmugam said that the victim had been brisk walking toward Choa Chu Kang Stadium when she lowered her mask to "prevent breathlessness".

At some point, the alleged assailant – a man "believed to be Chinese" – shouted at the woman, telling her to pull her mask up above her nose. When she explained that she was exercising, the man shouted at her again and used a "racial slur". 

The woman then told the man "God bless you" and began to walk away when the man ran towards her and "landed a flying kick on her chest". This caused the woman to fall, leaving her with scratches on her arms and hands.

A police report was lodged by the woman on Friday night and she said she would seek medical attention on Monday. 

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