PM Lee comes under fire for controversial remarks

PM Lee (PIc: CNA)
PM Lee (PIc: CNA)

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”]

TODAY report, 2009
TODAY report, 2009

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?”

  • FK

    The word belongs to everyone is inappropriate.It would be less contentious if it is said that Singapore wellcome everyone to visit Singapore,.The word belongs means anyone can claim Singapore as their home No need for visas.Anyone can just walk into Singapore since the island belongs to everyone and can stay here as long as they like.


    • nelsonmandala

      well the swiss is the only country in the whole wide world to giv any foreign visitors that priviledges (100% no bluff u all one)
      our former primister the woodhead promised us a swiss standard..so what he actually meant..all FOREIGNERs r welcum to stay PERMANANTLY..as lon as u pay TAXES…

  • AhTan

    Ah you, don’t be small minded. PM’s remark is on celebration.

  • Howe Peek

    Objectiveguy. Countries like Norway, Sweden and Denmark don’t have to worry about their
    needs as they are being taken off. You are not aware many people have their precious flats repossessed by HDB and forced to live as homeless people. You would not believe such heartless thing could happen in Singapore. I have experienced such hopeless situation with so called benevolent Government. I have experienced living with such people. You would not believe it. I am prepared to bring you to live with them if you dare to take up my offer.
    What the hell the feeling against the government got to do with people travelling and hello kitty? Anyway those who can afford to travel, are from the better classes. And those who rant against PAP are those who suffered injustice and pain resulting from present unbenevelont policies. Pro-foreigners, maximising wealth relentless expensive hdb flats -and policies than marginalised locals are some of the unhappinesses.
    Also you must be a but that people don’t have to worry about livelihood and next meals. I have gone through such suffering from wants Of course if you belong to LHL privileged background then you are in esteem company. Your claims will Have added validity.