Government should stand up for Singaporeans

“We should not because of one incident make that into an issue – that all immigrants are like that, or all Singaporeans should feel like that towards not even immigrants, but towards non-Singaporeans who are in Singapore, either studying or working here. That is something we have to be conscious of.” – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, referring to the Sun Xu incident. (Channel Newsasia)

I agree totally with the Prime Minister and I am glad he has spoken out about it. (I wish opposition parties had also taken a stand and tried to assuage or calm down the negative sentiments arising from the Sun Xu episode but that is another matter for another day.)

A friend of mine posted the following comments on my Facebook page, in response to PM Lee’s remarks:

“A lot of Singaporeans are now extremely embittered about all sorts of things. Unfortunately this is manifesting itself in the sorts of attitudes that Lee Hsien Loong describes and more.”

He added:

“What I also find astonishing and disappointing is the failure of the mainstream media to honestly recognise and discuss the poisonous atmosphere all around.”

My friend has put it more succinctly than I would have.

Singaporeans are embittered indeed. Just talk to anyone around you and chances are that you will come across at least one or two who are unhappy. We all know, or have speculated, on the causes. We all know the litany of ills: the arrogance and condescending attitudes of government ministers towards Singaporeans, its flawed policies, its stubbornness in not admitting failings, name-calling Singaporeans and belittling them, and so on.

But things are changing, as surely they must, if the ruling party is interested in staying in power. And what PM Lee said is right – the government is now more consultative, more open to discussion and dialogue. Its engagement with various groups and people is welcome. These must continue if we are to sustain and build on the cohesive society which we have always been.

But here’s the rub – as evidenced once again by PM Lee’s remarks which, admittedly, was well-intentioned. The problem is the thinking behind it – and the need to direct his advice at Singaporeans, instead of at those who perpetrated the insults which have made Singaporeans furious. I am, of course, referring to foreigners who live, work and study in Singapore.

There are some 2 million of them and I, for one, am not saying that all of them behave condescendingly towards Singaporeans. Indeed, the large majority of them are hardworking, kind even, and are here to seek a better life for their families back home – just as our forefathers did in days gone by.

What frustrates Singaporeans is that whenever an incident, perpetrated by non-Singaporeans, happens, the “advice” is directed towards Singaporeans to “accept that” and “move on.”

Such comments, from government ministers, will and can only add to the unhappiness among Singaporeans. No admonishment of the perpetrator.

Lets get this one thing straight: Singapore is what it is today – a miracle which has been lauded with all sorts of accolades – because Singaporeans work their butts off, achieving another first, that of putting in the most number of hours in a work week. It is a given that we are expected to put in 10, 12, 15, even 18 hour-days at the work place. In the midst of this, we care for our families, we worry about the elderly and the poor, we sacrifice our off days to do charity work, to spend time with our children mugging through their schoolwork. We put up with crowded trains and buses in our public transport system, we wait patiently for public housing to be affordable again, we worry about our parents who fall sick and have to pay for healthcare.

Look at Singapore today. It is a totally changed place. This did not come about because we were lazy. Or because we do not work together. Or because we squabble among ourselves, or look down on each other, or are paralysed by envy and jealousy.

All these changes came about because we Singaporeans have an immense amount of pride – in what we do, in what we have achieved, in our families, in our fellow workers, and in the potential and possibilities of this “little red dot” which we, through our own hard work, have created for ourselves.

As much as the government deserves credit for leadership, Singaporeans too deserve just as much, if not more, praise for their industry and commitment.

So, let us not put down Singaporeans, or even insinuate that we are heartless or unfeeling.

But things have come to the fore in recent times – things which our mainstream media and our government officials have yet to openly admit and do something about. What are these?

In the words of my friend, the embittered sentiments about all sorts of things.

Namely:

Foreigners belittling us, calling us names, making snide, rude and derogatory remarks about us. And never once has any government official stood up for us and chastised these people. The chastisement which PM Lee referred to above, with regards to Sun Xu, was done by Singaporeans themselves. No government MP or for that matter, neither any opposition MP, stood up for us. All kept quiet.

[PAP MP Hri Kumar had spoken up and criticised Shimun Lai’s posting. See here.]

The litany of causes of our unhappiness is a long one – and it is, as my friend said, an utter shame that the media have not facilitated any open and meaningful discussions or dialogues about these matters. They seem more interested in glossing over these cracks, perhaps hoping that one day they will all go away somehow. But these are not just cracks or simple frustrations. These are deep-seated or insidious poisons which will lead to the very foundation on which we have built Singapore becoming destroyed – the cohesiveness of our society.

Where do we start to repair the damage?

Do what is fair.

Start with recognising and openly showing appreciation – in word and deed – the effort which the ordinary and average Singaporean has put in, in building the Singapore we have today. Make this a regular and constant reminder to our guests who have come here to work.

We are not their servants.

Neither are they our masters.

In fact, no one is servant or master.

And then remind our guests that they are exactly that – guests in our home which we have graciously opened up to them, so that they have the opportunities to achieve a better life for themselves and their children, and pursue their dreams.

We are not against foreigners. Indeed they bring to us diversity and they share their experiences which we appreciate – whether they are multi-millionaire CEOs or movie stars, or construction workers who have come from poor villages back home. This article is not a diatribe against them. It is, however, a reminder to our government that it needs to show appreciation for Singaporeans first, and do so honestly, with recognition that indeed it is Singaporeans who have put in their hearts and souls to, as it were, help this nation rise from the ashes of uncertainty 46 years ago.

Singaporeans will continue to put their shoulders to the wheel and make this country work.

But we will not be ridiculed or belittled.

And we expect our leaders to stand up for us when we are.

Sun Xu may be just one incident but if we think Singaporeans were only angry with this one incident, then we truly have missed the woods for the trees. The gap between not just Singaporeans and new immigrants but more so between the government and Singaporeans would be wider than we may have thought.

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16 responses to “Government should stand up for Singaporeans”

  1. Jeff says :

    Cobbler’s children have no shoes. That’s human nature but this isn’t right too. People should be treated fairly. If the misbehave, punish. Reward those who did good. Very simple but somehow the psyche of “saving face” comes first into my mind.

  2. Anon says :

    Can someone repost Baey Yam Keng’s response to the Sun Xu incident?

  3. nginsing says :

    good article

  4. Nice try Buddy says :

    I agree with the PM a 100% but I relate this to the politicians not the citizens. They too have the “not in my backyard” syndrome. Its the usual , we stand up for democracy in other countries but do not do the protest, rally, human rights things here in Singapore.

    Well the us and them is manifestation of the elite, lessor mortals and heartlanders labels created by non other than the politicians

  5. sgcynic says :

    Indeed Lee Hsien Loong should be worried. Question is, will he take responsibility and ownership? Or just point finger? We have our own beliefs. Time will validate them.

  6. KS says :

    PAP also practiced “NIMBY ” – if you didn’t vote my MPs into your backyard, then you’re not priority.

  7. Anon says :

    Come on lah guys. Give credit when due lah. Just because we have done well doesn’t mean it’s a right.

    We Singapore ‘opened’ itself to open discussion and stuff like that under mm lee’s rule, do you really believe Singapore will be as successful as it is today?

    Be thankful that your kids have abundant opportunities to grow and succeed.

    Bitch please, quit whining and start thinking of how you can better compete against these people.

    Leave the country and see how things are like overseas. Think ourtraffic is bad, look at the Philippines. Think your salary is low, look at Cambodia. Think our police is corrupt, look at Vietnam. Think your streets are unsafe, look at Malaysia.

    An article may be well written but I feel that as Singaporeans we should get off our asses and think of how we can better our society rather than whining and whining and whining.

    -anon

  8. ernestcp says :

    alamak. no wonder we are called a nanny state. because writers such as these act like cry babies and needs to be mollycoddled. if you feel belittled, perhaps you have personal self esteem issues.imagine if you are iranian in america, jewish in turkey, korean in japan. jyou will simply not be able to survive. just get on with life will ya!

  9. ah@gmail.com says :

    Ok, PM Lee recognised a pressing issue. Good, “A” for the effort.

    Now, what are the causes? Where is the self-reflection befitting a leader of a country? Who or what policies had contributed significantly to this problem?

    Above all, PM Lee, tell us how is your PAP government gonna solve this problem.

    I believe Singapore citizens tried to send a clear signal last year. But I don’t think PAP is jolted into any meaningful action yet. They are doing too little, too late. There ares still so many policies that disadvantage native Singaporeans against foreigners, which of course include PRs. Instead of taking remedial actions, PAP leaders resort to admonishing and cajoling us to their xenophilic, money-centric ways.

    PM Lee, timing is running out very quickly for PAP. Change or be changed.

  10. john says :

    i’m so disappointed with our PM. As Loh mentioned, the government is sending its signals that Singaporeans need to be taught, chaperoned, chastised, but not once did the government stand up for Singaporeans. Just look at the case of the Australian/Kiwis who jumped bail after beating up the Singaporean – where is the justice?

  11. Donna says :

    I think Singaporeans should realize by now that the government is pro- foreginers as they present the future and they may still use Singapore as stepping ground. Therefore they try to defend them and make their lives as comfortable as possible so they do settle down here. 2nd and 3rd generation Singaporeans are already ‘stuck’ in Singapore, chained down by the burden of debt and the endless cycle of working to feed their materialistic urges.

  12. Sad says :

    If telling Singaporeans off and calling us various names and syndrom is a form of PAP “ENGAGEMENT”, I want none of it. This PM is totally beyond trying to get him to understand his country people, I do not want this kind of leader. Give me someone cheap and good to lead us forward. PAP has failed with “F” big and bold.

  13. georgia tong says :

    our own leader LKY belittled and call us names. LKY is a S’porean and supposingly a ‘wise’ old man. We cannot expect much from foreigners since LKY sets a very bad example.

    • KS says :

      LKY believes in punitive actions – punishing people by hurting them monetarily.
      LHL believes in incentivizing actions through monetarily.
      One is stick, another is carrot.
      The premise is the same – people are people, they just respond differently.
      Both can nearly always be manipulated, for good or ill – if only you find the right levers.

  14. The Pariah says :

    When chickens talk, what is the term for it? Talkc—.

    PM Lee talks about growing divide. He talks about NIMBYS (Not In My Back Yard SYNDROME). Hah!

    Quite often, how a child behaves is a tell-tale sign of what type of parents the child has.
    Ditto for GOVERNMENT-TO-PEOPLE correlation. Bah!

    PAP governs by (i) “divide-and-rule” tactics and (ii) “what’s-in-it-for-me” values.

    PAP’s laws are divisive – eg, en bloc law pitches Majority Consenters against Minority Dissenters.

    PAP policies target OUTPUT (eg, property flipping generates tax revenue and GDP growth) and sacrifice OUTCOME (eg, stability of home, sense of community, neighbourliness, foreigners buying prime residential units after SIngaporeans got en bloc’ced out – up to 20% evicted from their homes by force).

    PM Lee has himself missed the woods for the trees by missing the symbolism nuances in the backlash of the Sun Xu incident. When there is a nosebleed, it may be a sympton of something more deadly.

  15. Singaporeans Deserve Better! says :

    We should be asking ourselves (especially the 66%) questions like how did we allow them to take away our pensions and award it exclusively to themselves? How did we allow such a situation where Ministers were already receiving their pensions while still getting their millions? How did we allow such a situation where the Finance Minister’s and later PM’s wife was head of government-owned Temasek Holdings which manages a portfolio of about or more than $200 billion?

    We should be asking ourselves why the children of our millionaire Ministers are recipients of government scholarships at prestigious universities overseas instead of more needy and equally (or more) deserving Singaporeans. We should be asking what are the true facts of President Tony Tan’s son’s national service? After denying vociferously and even scolding the public, no clear explanation or evidence has emerged as yet to put the allegations to rest. How did we allow them to bully, destroy and finally disqualify capable opposition members like JBJ and Francis Seow and then turn around and point to the lack of quality opposition? How did we let them to pay themselves millions of dollars while we saw our wages stagnate for so long? Their justification was that we have to pay top dollar to get top quality – if that were true, why so many screw-ups then?

    Screw-ups like HDB’s (mission == affordable housing for masses) soaring prices, allowing someone as dangerous as Mas Selamat to stroll out of a max security detention centre, most Singaporeans not having enough in their CPF upon retirement, HDB’s DBSS, the frequent floods, the all-too-frequent MRT breakdowns, the breaches of security at SMRT, Singapore’s overpopulation, the swarming of foreign ‘talents’ especially unqualified and non-English-speaking PRC’s in frontline jobs, the over-granting of scholarships to foreign students – I could go on with more like the graduate parents scheme and our birth control schemes but this paragraph wouldn’t end.

    All of a sudden, our government has changed its tack and are willing to change and listen to the people. Why this sudden change? Not because they sincerely want to listen and change but because the unthinkable took place at the last GE which, for the first time, showed them what could happen at the next election. Also because the New Media has allowed the masses to hear alternative views for the first time after being force-fed by the government-run (no, LKY-run) SPH. For the first time in its history, it’s helter-skelter time at PAP HQ as they keep getting kicked in the teeth day after day, expose after expose.

    So let us not fool ourselves into thinking that the government has changed in any drastic manner as they are simply doing what anyone in survival mode would do – try to placate the masses with empty promises and acting like they care but still trying to bulldoze their policies through. Now they are trying to shoot down Prof Lim’s proposal by painting dire and gloomy scenarios. The same way they say and keep saying that Singapore is not ready for a non-Chinese PM or minimum wage and that multiracial Singapore will never be a melting pot like US because we are just too different from each other.

    We played our part in making Singapore the success story it is by tightening our belts, taking pay cuts with no bonuses during difficult times – shouldn’t we be given a slice of the pie in good times (not the pittance they throw at us every now and then especially just before the elections). We can only hope that the 66% who voted in the government only to grumble and point fingers at the government a few months later will diminish to a much smaller percentage at the next hustings. No one is saying that the PAP should be kicked out – all many Singaporeans want is more oppositions in Parliament to fight for us and present alternative viewpoints and keep the ruling party in check and on their toes!

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