For those who missed it, a certain Ramesh Erramalli became infamous overnight after a tirade against a security officer.
Netizens took offence at Ramesh’s vulgar arrogance and what he said, and promptly CSI-ed him, creating petitions to get him fired from his employer JP Morgan and digging up (sometimes fake) details about his salary, address, personal life and more.
Security officers are not new to being abused. There are several incidents of other residents and members of the public behaving badly towards security officers.
Why did netizens pay special attention to vilifying Ramesh Erramalli?
1. Xenophobia towards foreigners
When the video first appeared on YouTube, from his non-Singaporean accent, the first impression you would get is that he is a foreign talent.
Singaporeans hate being bullied by foreign talent, because we associate many negatives with them: they take away our jobs, drive up our property values, bring in negative traits from their cultures and boss us around.
A twist came when it was revealed by MHA that Ramesh is actually a Singaporean. MHA’s statement stated that he is “married to a local-born Singapore citizen” and “He obtained his Singapore citizenship on the sponsorship of his wife, under the Family Ties scheme.”
Even though Ramesh is a Singaporean, albeit a foreign-born one, he may not be accepted as true Singaporean as he wasn’t born here and didn’t complete his National Service (considered an ‘initiation ritual’ to be accepted as ‘one of us’).
Before Ramesh’s nationality was revealed, such bad behaviour from a ‘foreign talent was used as fuel to revive the anger against CECA, with opportunistic opposition personalities jumping on the bandwagon to gain public support before clarifying the facts of the situation.
Even celebrities shared opinions against foreigners.
2. Racial tensions in Singapore
Although Singapore is a melting pot of diversity, there are tensions among races and even within races. The fact that he is Indian, is less of a big deal than the fact he is an Indian who came to Singapore from India.
What is the difference? Read the Quora answer by netizen Meepok Da below.
We in Singapore have mixed views about Indians, from India. Let me start off by stating a fact: We have Singaporean Indians here. We have no problems with them, we eat the same food, speak the same language (Singlish), go to the same schools, serve the same army. Race is not an issue amongst us locals.
Some quick facts about our local Indian brothers. They are by large, descendants from South Indian migrant workers, mainly from Tamil Nadu and nearby states. They have brought with them the South Indian cuisine, a significant component of Singaporean cuisine; and the Tamil language, which is now one of the 4 official languages of Singapore.
And then, there are the Indians from India. The evidence is anecdotal and the following is a collation of personal views and feedbacks from friends.
They argue and argue. And argue more. Why do they always need to “win” an argument? It is not our culture to be confrontational, we can agree to be different and we will stop at that.
2) Caste System
I wish they stop bringing their superiority complex here. We do not have a caste system here like they do back in India, so stop looking down on others. And this is from my local Indian friend’s mouth “I wish they stop talking down to us. Sick of all this BS!”
3) Quick to Promise, Fail to Deliver
“Yes, it can be done.” “No problem, delivery time is not an issue” Sounds familiar when dealing with them? You are not alone!
Let one into a position of power, and soon his/her department are all filled with Indians. Are you saying there are no people of other nationalities with the correct skill sets other than Indians to take up the position? The situation has gotten so bad, the Ministry of Manpower has stepped in to investigate discriminatory hiring preferences. This problem is especially acute in the banks (CitiBank, HSBC etc)
5) Irresponsible tenants
Wonder why the landlords do not want to rent to Indians? Here’s why. They mess up the house, abuse the furniture / equipment. Do not clean up their cooking mess. They promise you they would fix it before their lease ends, then they don’t. And they have the cheek to come asking for their deposit after all that.
Point 5 is my personal experience. Not once but twice. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’m sorry, but no more Indian tenants for me.
They also abuse the dependent pass system, brings their entire “clan” here, applies PR for daughters and not for sons, and talks openly about “reaping the benefits before skipping to the US of A.” They are so notorious, it’s a well known fact in the expat forums. And so bad, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority has to crack down on their BS and tighten the leash on Indian applications.
What? Im lying? Just check out expatsingapore or singaporeexpats forums to know the truth!
So why are the feelings overwhelmingly negative? I don’t know. They have to ask themselves. The views above is purely personal. You might not have experienced what I did, but it does not invalidate what I have said. I could be an extremely unlucky guy, who knows?
ps: The above is not about the menial workers from India. Those are generally good humble folks who toils so their family back home in India has food on the table.
3. Income inequality is a sore topic
Although the wages of security officers have increased more than 20% since the Progressive Wage Model was legislated for the security industry, security officers earn much lower than PMETs who can afford a $1.5 million home.
By stating how much his unit costs upfront to emphasise his importance, Ramesh touched a very raw nerve in Singaporeans who hate the rich bossing the poor around.
In fact, IPS revealed that fault lines have emerged on class and immigration, together with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, where more Singaporeans, especially younger ones, want to see greater state involvement and public discourse.
What can Singaporeans takeaway from the Ramesh incident?
This incident reveals the best and worst in us.
We are quick to stand up for our fellow Singaporeans and rally support for the underdog.
However, we can be too hasty to make snap judgments and assumptions that warp the conversation.
Without knowing the facts, we drag up topics which are bothering us subconsciously like CECA and doxx Ramesh to the point of petitioning his company to fire him.
Our immediate and retrospective responses to the Ramesh incident are an important learning point for us as a country, to clarify and understand the context of the situation, instead of maximising the virality for personal agendas.