SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Some 300 to 400 Singaporeans on Sunday held a rare rally in a park against the government’s immigration policies, a hot button issue likely to figure in a parliamentary election expected in the first half of next year.
The People’s Action Party (PAP), which has ruled since independence in 1965, suffered its worst showing ever in the 2011 elections, in part due to voter concern over immigration.
Around 40% of the 5.7 million people living on the small city-state are foreign and some Singaporeans are frustrated with the number of immigrants in the city-state, who they accuse of competing for jobs, housing and schooling.
“Singaporeans, it is time to stand up for your rights to a reasonably good job in our own country - we must always adhere to the Singaporean-first slogan and that employment must be given to a local first before we ever consider a foreigner,” Gilbert Goh, the organizer of Sunday’s protest, said in a Facebook post for the event.
Posters reading messages including “We want a Singapore first labor policy” were placed around Speakers’ Corner, a designated site for people to air their views in Singapore.
Many protesters listened to speeches from plastic chairs, some sipping cups of malted milk, while a few waved the Singapore flag.
Public dissent is rare in Singapore where a licence is required to hold a demonstration.
The government has been tightening the inflow of foreign labor over the last few years.
Sunday’s protest followed a viral video showing a man of Indian descent swearing at an elderly local security guard at his condominium complex late last month. Local media reported the man was a naturalized Singapore citizen.
Singapore’s trade and manpower ministries did not respond to emailed requests for comment outside business hours.
Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; editing by Joe Brock amd Jason Neely