In the recent anti-China riots in Vietnam, several factories in two Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks were damaged and Singapore flags desecrated. The official reason for the desecration was that the rioters mistook Singapore flag for that of China’s. It is something that is difficult to believe because Vietnam is a country that had been at war with China and it is highly doubtful that the rioters were confused between the two flags. They are not as similar as the flags of New Zealand and Australia. The reason for the flag burning could be because the rioters took umbrage at Singapore’s apparent close ties with China. A pact of highly-charged people can indeed by irrational and they see things through aberrant perspective.
A flag is a hallowed symbol of a country’s identity and sovereignty. So its burning is an act of disrespect towards country’s independence and everything that the country represents and cherishes. It is an act that should be met with a certain degree of protest which the Singapore government had commendably done, as they should.
But the silence from certain quarters is ironically deafening. When the Philippines migrant workers in Singapore wanted to celebrate their Independence Day in Orchard Road, there were detractors who were vehemently against it citing that it would be an affront to Singapore’s sovereignty. They claimed that they were only being nationalistic in protecting the country’s interests.
So where are these so called nationalists in the wake of Singapore’s flag burning in Vietnam? This is not a call for a tit-for-tat reaction. That would have been counter-productive. But at least a message of displeasure should be sent across. There was none. Not a whimper. Therefore it is surprising that this symbolically anti-Singapore act did not solicit any reaction from them.
So are these so called nationalists only raising their voices when it fits their agenda? And that appears to be their anti-government bias? A flag transcends all partisanship. And their non-reaction to this incident only serves to shatter their self-proclaimed ideal that they are true-blooded Singaporeans who will come to the defence of the country when its sovereignty is challenged.
They are not nationalists. Far from it. They are merely pseudo-nationalists who will use nationalism as and when it fits their own agenda and that is to be critical of the government at whatever costs.