BY STEPHANIE SIOW:
British Businessman Anton Casey, 39, caused a furious backlash in Singapore in January. Married to a former Miss Singapore Universe, his two Facebook posts that publicly insulted commuters on Singapore’s public transport system have rapidly gone viral on international platforms such as the Guardian and the International Business Times.
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In another post, he ridiculed his taxi driver for wearing gloves and covering himself with towels while the air conditioning in the car was turned up high at Casey’s request, calling him a “retard.”
His behavior sparked a vicious barrage of comments online, most of which criticized him and his family. Law Minister K Shanmugam stated in a Facebook post that his comments were “deeply offensive”.
In an email to The Straits Times, Casey issued a public apology. He said: “I deeply regret having offended and disrespected the people of Singapore. I have the highest respect and regard for Singapore and the good people of Singapore; this is my home.”
In a statement on his Facebook page late Friday night, Crossinvest, which has parted ways with Casey, stated that his comments went against “our corporate and family values that are based on trust, mutual understanding and are respectful of diversity.”
Casey has since left for Perth.
While this may seem like a trivial issue, Casey’s scornful attitude toward people less well-off than him reinforces a stereotype of Singapore’s expatriates as egotistical and deluded. Top private bankers from all parts of the world regularly arrive at its tropical shores to make millions.
Indeed, Singapore, which boasts a modern subway system, is one of the world’s richest countries. In 2012, its gross domestic product per capita was the third highest in the world, at 51,709 US dollars. A significant proportion – around 40% – of all residents are not citizens.
The income inequality faced by a country with the second highest Gini coefficient (a worldwide measure of inequality) amongst “very high human development countries” (according to the Human Development Report) is certainly a sensitive issue. A comment on the Guardian’s website read: “I turned round to my British husband and asked him if this was British humor at its best. No, it isn’t. It’s obnoxiousness… Flaunting his wealth in the most contemptuous manner at the expense of locals in a country with apparently the biggest wealth gap.”
Yet the fund manager is far from alone in generating resentment against foreigners living in Singapore. Others, too, are perhaps indifferent to how their offensive comments estrange them from the native population.
As Shanmugam noted, it is “basic human decency” that those who have done well in life should always be looking out for others. While the immense tirade of verbal and emotional abuse that followed was similarly unpleasant, what has become clear is that Singaporeans are willing to strongly rebuke those who lack respect towards others, regardless of their financial circumstances or backgrounds.
Stephanie Siow ’17 is in Pierson College. Her beat is on events in Southeast Asia. Contact her at email@example.com.