Monday, August 22, 2011

Curry protest!

It takes a lot to start a mass campaign with political overtones in Singapore, but there’s no better catalyst than food. Tens of thousands of people in the south-east Asian city-state said they would cook or eat curry on Sunday in a protest highlighting growing anger over increased immigration.

The campaign began after an immigrant family from China complained about the smell of curry from a Singaporean Indian neighbour’s home and local officials brought about a compromise.

A Facebook page devoted to the row after reports were published in a local newspaper has drawn over 57,600 members, many of whom said they were cooking curry on Sunday in a show of solidarity with the Indian family. “Because we live in Singapore and Singapore is such a cramped place, neighbours should understand each others’ culture,” said Stanley Wong, a 37-year-old accountant who helped organised the Facebook page.

He and a dozen friends and family were gathering in a small government-built flat for a curry dinner. Most of the diners were ethnic Chinese, like the overwhelming majority of Singapore’s 5.1m people. But residents say curry is a Singaporean dish and that immigrants, including those from mainland China, should accept it is part of the local culture.

“The case could create problems with the integration of foreign nationals,” said Florence Leow, a freelance writer in her 40s who also was one of the organisers of the event. “Through this event we hope to cook and share a pot of curry and get to appreciate and embrace our culture.”

The influx of immigrants is a sensitive subject in Singapore, where only about two-thirds of the people are citizens. Many Singaporeans say the city-state’s relatively easy immigration policies are attracting too many foreigners, making it more difficult to find jobs and pushing up prices of homes.

Immigration was a major issue during the campaign for the May general election, which was easily won by the ruling People’s Action party, although its winning margin dropped sharply.

Singapore holds presidential elections on Saturday, which are non-partisan but are expected to be an unofficial referendum on the ruling party with Tony Tan, a former leading member and former deputy prime minister, one of the four candidates.


Poll finds Swiss divided over immigration

A majority of Swiss are not worried about a rise in immigration as a result of the free movement of people in the Schengen zone, a poll has found.

The poll published in the SonntagsBlick newspaper on Sunday found 59 per cent of respondents said immigration by European workers was not a concern, whereas 40 per cent said they were “rather” or “very” concerned. It is a particular worry for people aged over 54 and those with a basic level of education.

Around half were happy with the actual number of foreigners in Switzerland: 48 per cent said foreigners making up 22.1 per cent of the population was “good”, while 34 per cent said it was “much too high”.

Young people and French-speaking Swiss were more open towards immigration: 56 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds and 64 per cent of French-speakers said they were satisfied with the current number of immigrants. In German-speaking parts, 43 per cent approved of the ratio.

However most of those polled (80 per cent) agreed that foreigners helped make the economy prosperous.

The poll, carried out by the Demoscope Institute for the SonntagsBlick, questioned 1,002 people from German and French-speaking parts of Switzerland.


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