After creating controversy last month by describing some Singaporeans as “a disgrace to Singapore” for threatening the organisers of a Philippines Independence Day celebration, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has once again caused blood pressure to rise among some citizens.
At a grassroots event in Ang Mo Kio on Sunday to celebrate the Indian New Year, Mr Lee was reported to have said that “the event was an embodiment of the theme as well as on a larger scale where everyone participates as one big Singapore family” and that Singapore was a place “where we all celebrate one another's festivals and happy events together."
He added that “Singapore belongs to all of us”, which he said included “Singaporeans, new arrivals, people who are on permanent residence here, people who are on employment pass here.”
Mr Lee's comments were reported by Channel Newsasia:
Mr Lee’s remarks, which were first reported by the media in India, raised howls of protest from some online who see his comments as unacceptable.
“How can a PR or Employment Pass Holder be equal to a citizen?” one person posted on The Online Citizen's Facebook page. “This is truly a slap to every Singapore-born son who has given two years of his life to national service. For a leader to say that this country belongs to people who don't hold a Singapore citizenship is absolutely shocking.”
“We the citizens of Singapore have just been reduced to the status of guests in our own country by our own PM,” said Steve Chia.
“How can a country belongs to everybody who happens to live here?” asked David Tan Hock San.
Janet Ng said Mr Lee has “forgotten [why]our forefathers fought so hard for Singapore ann those who have sacrificed their lives for Singapore.”
“Singapore is for Singaporeans,” she said. “Those who are PRs (Permanent Residents) or working with WP (Work Permit), SP (Special Pass) are just visitors of Singapore who only help the economy [of]Singapore. Only when you are a citizen of Singapore... can say Singapore is for you. We have to draw the line even though you don't like it. Very sad to hear this from our leader.”
Kevinn Heng said, “As a citizen [I] am most sad to see this statement. We welcome guests but that does not equate to them having an ownership of our land and what we have built.”
Many said that since Mr Lee says Singapore belongs to everyone who is here, foreigners should then be asked to do National Service (NS), which has become a sticking point among Singaporeans since Mr Lee’s government opened the floodgates to 2 million foreigners.
Foreigners presently make up 40 per cent of Singapore’s total population of 5.4m, which is expected to increase further to 6.9m by 2030.
While first generation PRs are not required to do NS, their sons will have to. Still, the call for the former to be conscripted in the military has been an ongoing on.
It prompted Mr Lee, who was a Brigadier General before entering politics in 1984, to make another controversial remark in 2009:
“If we make it (NS and Reservist for PR) a requirement, we would not get the people we wanted,” he said.
“Secondly, if they did serve NS at 30, 40 and 50 years old. I would not like to be their platoon commander.”
His remarks prompted one blogger to write:
“[To] belittle the contributions and sacrifices of thousands of NSmen who serve till 40 is appallingly sick! It is so sad to know that Singapore citizens who recite the Singapore Aspiration (Pledge?) are lesser mortals in Singapore than PRs who spice up the lives of elite Singaporeans!”
[Read here: “Ungrateful platoon commander, insensitive leeder”]
Former presidential candidate, Tan Kin Lian, has also castigated Mr Lee for his latest views.
“The remark by PM Lee that Singapore belongs to everyone staying here, including the foreigners on work asses, makes a mockery of asking male citizens to serve National Service,” Mr Tan said. “It is ridiculous to have this person as the prime minister.”
Blogger Ng E Jay said Mr Lee “urgently needs to clarify his highly controversial remark.”
“Netizens have reacted strongly to Mr Lee’s statements, which seem to have been interpreted in a highly negative fashion,” Mr Ng said. “Given the different interpretations and the angry reactions of many netizens, I urgently call upon PM Lee to clarify. Just what do you mean?”