Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday said he was “seriously concerned” by an alleged racist attack on a woman exercising in the street, the Straits Times is reporting.
Hindocha Nita Vishnubhai, 55, said she was out brisk walking on Friday morning.
The mother of two adult children had lowered her mask below her nose, as per pandemic rules.
According to current regulations, individuals can remove their mask when engaging in strenuous exercise but must put the mask back on once this is completed.
Sport Singapore defines “strenuous exercise” as running, jogging, cycling, static exercises and drills for warm-ups, brisk walking and walking on hilly terrain.
She suddenly heard a man shouting at her from behind. He was accompanied by a woman.
“He shouted at me to put my mask above my nose. I told him that I was exercising which is why I had the mask below my nose,” she said.
The man, believed to be in his late 20s, once again shouted at her to put her mask up.
“He then started to abuse me and even called me a racial slur used against Indians. I wanted to avoid an argument with him, so I said ‘God bless you’ and tried to walk away,” she said.
This further aggravated him, and he ran towards her and landed what she described as a “flying kick” to her chest.
“It was a very forceful kick which knocked me to the ground. I kept shouting ‘he kicked me, he kicked me’,” said Nita, who is just 1.6m tall and 60kg.
The couple ran away after she fell to the ground.
A bystander who had witnessed the incident from a nearby bus stop rushed to her aid, helping her up and offering plasters to stem the bleeding from several abrasions.
Nita lodged a police complaint that evening.
The prime minister said in a Facebook post that the attack “goes against everything that our multiracial society stands for”.
He added: “It harms our international reputation more than we realise.”
Lee said he was confident the police will establish the facts and bring the perpetrator to justice.
“I understand people being under stress because of Covid-19, but that does not justify physically assaulting someone because of race,” he said.
Several other ministers also commented on the incident in their Facebook posts on Monday evening, calling it “disturbing” and “unacceptable”.
Minister for sustainability and the environment, Grace Fu, urged the public to keep in mind Singapore’s core value of unity as a society.
“We feel indignant when Asians are attacked because of their race in other countries. Let us not allow such behaviour to take root here. As we battle this pandemic, it is more important than ever for our communities to band together.”
Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said, “We would be horrified to hear of Asians in other countries being targeted in violent hate crimes due to Covid-19. Now we see verbal and even physical abuse against members of our Indian community here in Singapore. This is deeply troubling.”