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Resident complained to Shanmugam about Indian neighbors’ ‘sweaty smell’

Posted by temasektimes on August 21, 2012

Law Minister K Shanmugam has expressed his concern at a complaint he received from one of his residents about the ‘unpleasant’ qualities of his Indian neighbors.

In a posting on his Facebook, Mr Shanmugam wrote:

“I received a complaint from one of my residents, a few weeks ago. He is Singaporean. He was upset that he had to “tolerate” his Indian neighbours. The resident protested at having to “smell their Indian sweaty smell and unwashed bodies”. He described the Indian family as living in squalor and complained about their poor social status.”

It is not revealed if the Indians are native Singaporeans or recent arrivals from the Indian subcontinent.

Mr Shanmugam added that he was quite disturbed by the complaints:

“The rest of the complaints taken together however, are quite disturbing. The resident actually sent me an email setting this out. The resident appears to see his neighbour’s race as being the problem and the overt prejudice is quite troubling….We need to make sure that things stay positive between people of different races.”

Singaporeans have mostly lived in harmony with one another over many years of nation-building. The race issue appears to crop up only lately with the relentless influx of foreigners which has changed the island state’s demographics to beyond recognition.

45 Responses to “Resident complained to Shanmugam about Indian neighbors’ ‘sweaty smell’”

  1. Public Eyes said

    Listen. We may or may not have positive experiences in our lives. And sometimes, we are myopic and blame it on so and so’s race. In a fit of anger, we are not to be taken too seriously. In one way or another, we might even have come across as being racist when we lose our political correctness in our rants. That aside, when we act our our biasness and condemn people based on their races, then I think we have crossed the line.

    • aloysius12 said

      I totally agree that we cross the red line when are bias and start condemning people based on their race.

      • Could be anyone said

        Yeah race should have been left out, but again how tolerant can we be of anyone who’s flat smells, dont shower, puffs ciggies in all the common areas, dogs poo left around, especially if you have to walk past that unit to get to your flat everyday.

    • Ashok Pandian said

      The question to ask ourselves is: Has race relations become worse since our independence?

      And if it has become worse, as this incident narrated by the minister would indicate, the second question to ask ourselves is: Who has been managing this country for the past 47 years?

      Seems like they are not doing a good job, isn’t it.

      I mean, Singapore is just 700 sq km.

      This is not a country of 2,000,00 sq km with a hundred different ethnic groups, is it?

  2. SINKIE said

    In b4 racist comments attack Indians(whether foreign or local)

  3. Public Eyes said

    Good to see few good MPs and Ministers actively managing their FB accounts. Some don’t even bother to reply the posts on their FB walls, restricted view of their FB … you’re in the public eye already, crying out loud. If you can’t handle the scrutiny, why be a MP in the first place?

  4. Mike Zeng said

    Methinks it did not occur to the resident who emailed to his MP of his GRC that the latter is also a full-blooded Indian. It happens. As far as he was concerned the MP’s race is of no consequence. He’s been elected by the residents to solve their problems including their unhappiness with their neighbors whatever his/their
    ethnicity may be…. just too bad he’s also an Indian.
    Or it could also be that he was complaining about foreign Indians of a lower status than his Indian MP whom he knows is way up in the social ladder.
    I won’t be surprised the resident could even be a local Indian pretty high-up in society.

  5. SINKIE said

    BTW last time I checked only local Singaporean Indians wear sarong as it’s tradition brought over from Southern India that spread towards the Malay Archipelago.

    So that Indian family mentioned are probably Southern Indians which means they are probably native born Singaporeans.

    Many white supremacists in Australia and Europe also have the same mindset towards to their Asian immigrants and used this as an excuse to physically harm and attack them.

    So TT condones racism from Chinese Singaporeans even if it’s directed towards local minority Singaporeans because of their displeasure to the FT issue?

  6. NaBey said

    Hey sham, he is hinting you lah! Why you believe everything that others said?

  7. Gallow said

    Seem that Sham is totally shut out from so many crimes committed by these Indians. Worst, murder cases oso can walk away. No gallow.

  8. Julie Ong said

    Just like you Mr Shanmugam I am appalled at the complaints.

    As a proud Singaporean I’d like to affirm the values of respect and acceptance of our fellow human beings irrespective of our race, language or religion. Your social status is not one for consideration as well. Only your willingness to communicate and interact with us is the fundamental requirement.

    However, knowing why their neighbours are unhappy perhaps the Indians should consider if their ways/habits can be improved so as to fit in and keep on
    good terms with their neighbours. Hopefully, the people in this situation can learn to get along. It is indeed dreadful to have neighbours who are unhappy with us, whatever the reason/s.

    We must always be accepting of others despite the difficulties sometimes.

    Please do remember: No One Is Perfect!

  9. Snoopy Says said

    What crap. Issue is about the foul smell, not about what race that neighbour belongs to.

    • baldeagle said

      Wake up, the complainant mentioned “Indian, Indian” so many times. Everything seems to be yellow to the jaundiced eye!

  10. really? said

    I don’t know if Shanmugam really investigated this. It could be a troll. Who in their mind would complain to an Indian about Indians?

  11. Gina said

    Perhaps the government should have a sort of orientation program for aspiring immigrants. May I offer a few examples:
    For the Mainland Chinese: that it is not acceptable to use a restaurant or fast food outlet table as a surface to change a child’s diaper. That it is not acceptable or hygienic to urinate, and even pass motion, on just anywhere when the urge strikes them! That it is not acceptable to sleep stretched out over a few seats in public transport. Not to put feet up on seats. Not to spread their laundry in playgrounds and public areas. These are just a few examples I have witnessed.
    I have seen young mainland Chinese seating on reserved seats. On one occasion, I alerted a young Chinese couple to give up their seats for some elderly women. The male got up immediately and he had to drag the female off the seat!

    • GaanMaro said

      These bad example also applies to FTs from India, Pinoyland and other SEAsian countries like Vietnam and Myanmar. Somehow they expect we Singaporeans to accept these bad behaviour that they bring from their homeland to our shores.

  12. Lawrence Lim said

    I feel racism in the air from the resident. If there is a complaint on the hygiene, it can be addressed simply by having a chat with the offending parties. However, to paint a broad brush as ” Indians are…. ” shows the ugly sign of racial discrimination. It is natural to discriminate, but as cultured folks, we should learn to control our natural inclination to discriminate and to treat others, irrespective of the colour of their skin equally.It is therefore a test on the depth of one’s cultural refinement when one reacts in such a racist manner. Let Singaporeans learn to accommodate each other to make it a harmonious society. Seems to recall that we repeat the National Pledge every morning and still failed to live up to its the true meaning of the Pledge.

    • Steve Lee said

      Apart from smoking in the lift, everything else seems to say to me that the resident is racist. I am saddened that my fellow Singaporeans of Indian descent have to put up with idiots like this on a daily basis. I only hope that the complainant’s children are able to draw from their own positive experiences in their interactions with minorities and break free from this vicious cycle. The most positive thing I got from the whole incident, was that the complainant felt that he/she was able to bring his/her alleged problem to none other than another Indian, the Minister himself. There might be hope for him/her yet. Lol

  13. Anil Chaudary said

    I am just hoping that the Worker’s Party will win Nee Soon GRC in the next GE.

    Mod’s note:

    Will it make any difference when the ‘Wayang Party’ is nothing more but the PAP’s unofficial ‘B’ team? What have the six ‘Wayang’ MPs done in parliament so far to deserve the tag of ‘opposition’? Even the PAP backbenchers and NMPs are more vocal than them! Time to wake up and don’t be deceived by the ‘Wayang Party’ anymore. A vote for WP = A vote for PAP!

  14. Jagish said

    Can I see a show of hands of daft Singaporeans who believes this guy?

  15. dave said

    Sounds like a recent PRC converted to citizen?

    • dave said

      Or maybe the citizen was alluding to something else instead by using the illustration of an imaginary issue…

    • True Singapore said

      Definitely a new citizen from PRC. They are a bunch of uncouth and ill-mannered people who do not know how to live peacefully with other racial groups. They only know how to complain and they should be sent back to China.

  16. Ashwin said

    Nice! So now blame the Indians then…forever complaining

  17. sniper said

    the minister is living in la la land.

    He never study history of the germans who are a peacefull people by all accounts but was usupered by the jews in their own land.

    Now the germans are good with their hands and build things but the jews are banking people and just seat on top of the germans collecting rentals and interests rates and talk a whole lot and make movies.

    Any parallels here ?

  18. Ron said

    Personal hygiene and smell. This is not restricted to any one race. Chinese, Indians, Whites, Africans…they all smell. I have a long-time Indian family as neighbour and I have not had any instance of a smell problem. If anything, there is a fragrance when they go for their daily prayers.

    The complaint has a strong racist bias. You do not smell body odor after a short distance. But if they cook curry, the food smell will be strong but one has to accept that in a multi-ethnic society.

    Unwashed bodies? How does the neighbour know? Did they peep into their bathrooms? And remember, everyone needs to go out to work and I cannot imagine anyone not bathing. His employer will tell that person off.

    Just this week-end I was in a crowded train from Clementi heading into town. There was a big group of mixed Indian sub-continent workers… no smell, no noisy train ride. In fact the aircon was lousy and many of us were perspring on the foreheads.

  19. scamy said

    Hey shame,Ever wonder the writer may be taking a dig at you?The most common comments in the past about indians was the “COCONUT OIL HAIR ” smell.Well,Since the writer did not mentioned this,very likely he’s referring to you!

  20. True BLUE Sinkie said

    I was standing in the mrt train one day and an indian foreign worker was standing beside me. He was holding on to the overhead railing, thus exposing his arm pit. Guess what? The stench was over-powering. This guy had poor hygiene and smells of rotten mutton was many of us are well aware of. Without having to tell that guy off, I had to cover my nose and tolerated the smell. When I couldn’t take it anymore, i moved to the next carriage.

    • Ron said

      Yes, there are some stinkos around and they may not even realised how badly they stank. SMRT should mount some campaign. When you share public space, you need personal hygiene and decorum. And perhaps we should promote a silent “occupy” tactic. When we are next to someone that really stinks, we all pinch our nose or hold our fingers to it. And the poster should show how its done.

      The offender will get the hint. If necessary, we can advise the station staff which cabin is the stinko and they have the right to ask him to get off the train.

      SMRT should publish the rules. Perhaps even give the poor fella a complimentary towel and soap to wipe off in the public toilet.

  21. Singapuraboi said

    While the govt always proposes integration, it’s policies r far fr being integrative. The celebration of the 4 raves is one example. The constant concern that the Chinese population is dropping. The govt should take the lead and encourage true integration and encourage inter marriage so that a true Singaporean race emerges like the Peranakans a mix of Chinese and malay. Does it matter which race is not producing? And they wonder why we can’t accept the FTs. We already can’t accept the other races equally. Having said that the reason for keeping the races is just another strategy of divide and conquer. Perhaps with the increasing anti foreigner sentiment, it looks like the Singaporeans are banding together to stand up against the foreigners. People be careful what u read on Shanmugan’s FB. Did u see the original complain letter? Or is this just another manipulative move to shift the focus away from the FTs.

  22. Richard said

    I think even if the neighbours are of other races and they create pungent smells or walk around in sarong – the same email would have been sent. So it is not because the neighbours are Indians per se but the disturbing scents no matter what the racial origin of these smells.

  23. i say what i think only said

    see the need to state the complaint came from a singaporean? in case got blasted by daft netizens again.

    however, since he want to make it so clear, why never say new citizen or locally borned ones?

  24. Min Sham shd not crystallise this complaint as a racist issue as i) the complainant did not say Indians are smelly; ii) he did not say the smell was cos’ his neighbours are Indians; iii) it wld be illogical for him to complain to an Indian minister that Indians are smelly.
    By unduly reacting to a complaint by a resident on a matter affecting an Indian family to colour it as racist, Min Sham himself is displaying racist sentiments and inclination in brushing aside a complaint likely made in good faith by a non-Indian against an Indian family without racist intent or undertone. Wld he (Sham) hv crystallised the same matter similarly if an Indian had complained to him about his non-Indian neighbours’ smell?
    As everybody knows, body odours may occur naturally or from poor personal hygiene regardless of race. The stench from someone born with body odour can be overwhelming to those around him. There’s nothing racist in this as this is a human thing. But education can help as presentday deodorants are available to suppress body odours.
    It’s odd that Min Sham shd describe his resident’s complaint as a racist manifestation given the facts as reported.

  25. Multiracialism in Singapore “Has and “Is” running on “Auto-Pilot”.

    With the push for mother tongue in 1979 which is good for all races, it also create a down side.
    We loose the common ground that make us Singaporean.
    Meaning, the races has no common ground to mix.
    Why, less communication amongst the races. Hence, less understanding with each other.
    Commonality is lost.

    About body odor, every race has distinct odors. So to think only a particular race smells more, is preposterous.
    The reason you don’t smell your own race is because you have the same odor and you became immune to it. That’s all.

  26. denzuko1 said

    Of all the complaints he chose to highlight one on racism. Worst still he chose the one with his own race as the victim. Is he trying to imply that Indians are a deprived group in Singapore?

  27. True Singapore said

    This is a racially insensitive case. Shanmugam is utterly stupid and an idiot to entertain this case as he cannot interfere in the way people dress or eat – just like the Curry incident. Shan may appear to be concerned but isn’t this the PAP’s fault for bringing too many foreigners into our country
    As for that idiotic person who complained, he should be sent back to China as he would be more busoh than the Indian As he is not happy, move out of that place – go and live in China as he is not fit to be a Singaporean. I presume this must be a Chinaman and not a Singaporean. To my knowledge Singaporeans are more tolerant towards our fellow Singaporeans.

  28. Shan Shan said


  29. Typical Singaporean (complaint, complaint, complaint) said

    With all due respect, the issues here are not being about racist. Well it is a FACT, is their CULTURE!
    Things like public awareness, social cultures, common understanding or respect between each other has to be raised in the news media to minimize such disturbance, nuisance or complaint cases arising from the resident in the HDB Flat, (which so called Singapore “bird cage”). Having say that, Singapore will still remain as peaceful and comfort living place to everyone ^ ^

  30. sniper said

    i HATE INDIANS WHO COME IN freely to singapore WITHOUT DOING A DAY OF NS !!!


    * Minimum 3 GCE ‘O’ Levels credits
    * Minimum 21 years old and above
    * Singaporeans or Permanent Residents only. Male candidates must have completed or exempted from National Service

    • SMILE said

      their education n moral n hygienic etc standard is far below….wondering why employers like to employ make our economy down to create social unrest

  31. Roger said

    Everything is about race in Singapore .. from your birth till you die.. And artificial racial integration and harmony .. Total rubbish ..

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