Tan Kin Lian

I received two e-mails from a visitor to my blog, www.tankinlian.blogspot.com.

First e-mail

Hi Mr Tan

I have been following with interest your blog on and off especially during the period of “minibonds”. I respect your sense of social justice and your courage and willingness to fight for the underdogs.

I myself have always been neutral to politics. I only write today because on the spur of the moment, I want to pass a few observations about the passing away of the Singapore I grew up in.

I am in my 30s. When I am young, I felt that the government was willing to develop us Singaporeans. Life was simple, relations with people were sincere.

That Singapore is no more. In almost any job I have worked, foreigners equal Singaporeans in number, sometimes they exceed. Even when you interact with people, the locals don’t care for and about the locals. Money is all everyone thinks about. Perhaps it is because we are all forced to struggle with the influx of so many FTs.

When we need employers to give us a chance, we find that the job has gone to some more experienced FT. But they were given chances, even sponsored to take courses, back in their own countries to hone the skills that they have today. 

All familial ties are no more; we have become disposable entities to our companies and our bosses. It is a very lope-sided system where the employer is king. Even some bosses, used to maids, treat employees in the same disposable manner. Forget about receiving any training, you are paid to serve them. Retrenchment and dismissal is sometimes the excuse of poor senior management. The same goes for the present government.

I am neither bitter nor resigned. I am just sad that I cannot identify this country with the one I knew and grew up in. You might tell me I am being sentimental, we must all adapt to the world, there is no free lunch. Yes I have heard that many times. And home-grown Singaporeans are largely a docile bunch willing to bend over backwards with the govt. But why does it seem that the govt makes our problems worse instead of better?

You are very capable man. By writing to you, I don’t dare to aspire for anything. I have signed your petitions and I have written encouraging messages on your blog. I just want to share with you, Singaporean to Singaporean, the loss of the soul and essence of my country.

Hi Mr Tan,

I have visited your blog again and have read the comments to my email. I’m not upset, don’t worry.

I respect what you are doing. But I do not know whether it will succeed. Singapore has changed. The younger Singaporeans are pleasure-loving and hedonistic, the older ones are too busy struggling. And all of us are struggling in this over-populated country and intimidated by a government that can do whatever they like and manipulate whatever law they want. The worst is seeing younger Singaporeans sell out their countrymen for the love of money.

I empathize with those who are poor and suffering. I would not mind contributing if you have any schemes to help them. Under the present government, they are reduced to getting scraps ” qiu sheng bu si, qiu si bu neng” (seeking life is difficult, seeking death is not possible). Perhaps it is possible to set up some sort of recruitment so that matches these people to employers who are willing to pay them fair wages and not exploit them.

As for me, I am thinking of leaving the country next time. I am tired, Mr Tan. I am quite well educated, but I still have some integrity. I don’t want to sell my soul for money like what some people are doing.

My comments

This reader, although much younger than me, expressed the sentiments felt by me and some Singaporeans of my generation.

We were proud and happy to be Singaporeans many years ago. We were part of the struggle to build an independent nation, based on equality and justice, which is respected by many nations around the world.

Today, Singaporeans are disappointed. We are not sure if Singapore still belongs to us or only to those who are in power.

Our views are not sought. Even if we struggle to be heard, we are ignored. We can see fellow Singaporeans, who are weak, being exploited. Even if they are cheated, they are asked to open their eyes.

What is more worrisome to me is that many people care for their own self interest. If they are not affected, they will stay on the sideline. Maybe they are too busy struggling to make a living. This is probably just an excuse.

I like to ask you to read the letter from the grave, by Lasantha Wikrematunga.

He spoke out for others, against injustice and corruption, and paid with his life.

In his letter, Wikrematunga quoted a poem from Martin Niemoller. In his youth, Niemoller was an anti-Semite and an admirer of Hitler. As Nazism took hold in Germany, he saw Nazism for what it was: it was not just the Jews Hitler sought to extirpate, it was just about anyone with an alternate point of view. Niemoller spoke out, and was sent to concentration camps and nearly died.  Here is the poem:

  First they came for the Jews
  and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
  Then they came for the Communists
  and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
  Then they came for the trade unionists
  and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
  Then they came for me
  and there was no one left to speak out for me.

I like to ask Singaporeans: Are you willing to speak up for others, against injustice and suppression?


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