Singaporeans' culinary anti-immigration protest: curry

Posted at 08/22/2011 10:09 AM | Updated as of 08/22/2011 10:10 AM

SINGAPORE - 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 Southeast 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 neighbor'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 who 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, neighbors should understand each others' culture," said Stanley Wong, a 37-year old accountant who helped organized the Facebook page.

He and a dozen friends and family were gathering in a small government-built flat for a potluck curry dinner.

Most of the diners were ethnic Chinese, like the overwhelming majority of Singapore's 5.1 million 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 organizers 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.