Was ex-minister George Yeo’s cryptic Facebook post “Whither Singapore” actually referring, not to the Punggol By-election, but to the White Paper proposal to have 6.9 million people here by 2030? If it were, then the question should be “Whither Singaporeans”, true blue Singaporeans to be exact.
There has been a national uproar and outcry by Singaporeans against the preposterous proposal by our government to bring in many more foreigners with a target of 6.9 million. Like my fellow men and women, I am shocked and incensed.
First of all, let’s call a spade a spade, the government was probably aiming for 7 million but was advised that the clever thing to do is to say 6.9 million as it would sound less alarming that 7 million. Cheap marketing gimmick. So they want to up the population in our overcrowded island by 30 % within the next 16 years to SEVEN MILLION! At least be honest about it.
And what’s this nonsense by Minister Khaw Boon Wan that the 7 million (6.9) is actually not a target but a “worst-case scenario”? Clearly, he said that (and PM Lee Hsien Loong quickly agreed with him on Facebook) in an attempt to calm the rage of the people. Worst-case scenarios apply if the country is being overrun by illegal immigrants and you can’t control it. The 7 million is clearly a Target as it refers to controlled and planned in-takes of permanent residents and new citizens.
But then again, maybe this is another attempt to be clever. Maybe, just maybe the government’s real target (or best-case scenario) is 6.5 million. This is how it goes in negotiations. Start high and bargain down to a win-win scenario. Make the buyer feel grateful and happy with a “discount” while the seller achieves his real goal.
The government has taken pains to stress that Singaporeans will remain the core of the population. Take a look at this chart done up by The New Paper in a feature explaining the White Paper’s objectives. This Chart depicts the proportion of Singaporeans versus Foreigners (Permanent Residents + Non-Residents) which works out to about 55% vs 45%.
What do you see when you look at this chart?
To the government, they see their proposed core of Singaporeans and lots of foreigners making up the rest of the numbers. But to many of us, I reckon we see us Singaporeans being encircled and squeezed into a smaller and smaller corner to the point where we are becoming the minority!
If the government were honest with us, which it hasn’t been, it would spell out the fact that the 55% or 3.8 million so-called Singaporeans would include a significant portion of new immigrants. Deduct about 10% of the new citizens and we will be left with only about 40+% of true, blue Singaporeans! That makes us a MINORITY in our own country! How preposterous is that?
Like many rational Singaporeans, I acknowledge the problem of our low fertility rate and aging population. I also acknowledge the need for a good mix of foreigners to help fill jobs and to create a good cosmopolitan balance. However, is the solution to keep importing foreigners by the planeload into this tiny over-crowded island? Isn’t that overly-simplistic solution simply postponing the problem and ignoring the negative impacts on our society and our people? What our government is proposing goes against everything that a nation stands for – the uniqueness of its people, its sense of identity and solidarity, the rootedness and unity of the people who build the land.
Try proposing such an abominable plan to reduce the born and bred citizens to less than half of the total population in any other country and there will most likely be a national revolution! No patriotic citizen from China to India, from Finland to Italy, and from the US and New Zealand would tolerate such a proposal. Neither would any other patriotic government in the world make such a crazy and demeaning proposal to dilute its own people to such an extent for the sake of economic objectives!
The fact that our PAP-controlled government did so, despite GE 2011 and their broken promises to reduce the influx of foreigners, shows great disrespect for every single one of us. It is, to me, the equivalent of raping our nation, of selling out our country and forcing seemingly powerless citizens to accept a repulsive change to the place they call home. It is a gross violation of the rights of all Singaporeans who had given blood, sweat and tears to build our homeland.
Whither then Singaporeans if such a scenario comes to pass where we become the minority in our own country? Kiss goodbye to trying to forge a Singapore identity as we had envisioned for one. The identity as we know it may no longer exist one day.
Over the past year, I had made some new young friends from among the new citizens. I had initially mistaken some of them for expats. One was a good-looking Arab guy who spoke with a posh British accent. The other was a young lady of Sri Lankan descent who looked like she was from a western country with her Californian looks and her easy American English. Both surprised me when they told me they were Singaporeans. Neither displayed any Singaporean traits nor accent.
The Arab guy said he was raised here but had lived and studied mostly in London where his family had two homes. As for the lady, she flashed her pink IC to prove she is Singaporean and explained with a laugh that she doesn’t speak Singlish at all because her mum (who had migrated here), used to beat her every time she uttered Singlish while growing up here. Singlish is forbidden in her family.
I felt sad when I heard this and I felt sadder when I met an American recently who asked me if I were “Really Singaporean” when I told her my nationality. When I asked her what she meant, she said:”Well, there are Singaporeans and there are Singaporeans. You have so many new immigrants here don’t you?” And not too long ago, a young Malaysian had told me off-handedly “there are not many Singaporeans left in this country”.
What’s my point of sharing these personal encounters? For one, it is to share that I am starting to feel like a minority in my own country. My nationalistic pride is hurt and I am sad to see where my country is heading. I hope such personal stories, of which there are plenty I am sure, will highlight to the government that the assimilation of foreigners into Singapore isn’t as easy as they think.
Many of the new citizens come from countries with decades if not centuries of history and different cultural norms and heritage. Many are affluent and have set ways of behaviour and lifestyle. Unlike our poor forefathers who came to Singapore in the early 1900s to eke out a living and who had to assimilate, these new immigrants have a choice on how they want to live and where. Try to make them more Singaporean? With us as a minority, the chances are not looking good. If anything, the majority of foreigners may end up changing our cultural norms and rewrite our future and our Singapore identity. Singlish as we know it, may be a whimsical phase in our history one day in future.
Singapore as a country will certainly be here long after many of us have passed on. But Whither Singaporeans? That’s the real question to ask.