The following is a letter by Mr Cheong Wing Lee, a Canadian,  in response to Mr Eric Brooks’s letter in the Straits Times titled, “Be grateful, Singapore”.

Dear Editor,

As a fellow Canadian I am embarrassed by Mr Eric Brooks’ remarks to Singaporeans. Mr. Brooks is a visitor with a superficial knowledge of Singapore history. He should refrain from making such ridiculous sweeping statements.

I was born shortly after the Second World War and raised in Singapore before immigrating to Canada. I have worked and lived in more countries than Mr Brooks. There is no doubt that most Singaporeans deeply appreciate the outstanding work done by the Singapore leaders in bringing the country from third world status to the present world class status. However, gratitude evolves with time and social changes. Singaporeans are now better educated. They travel, see, learn, compare and adapt. Singaporeans are not stupid or naive.

Singaporeans now have a higher level of thinking and are more demanding. This demonstrates progress. Higher aspirations, greater expectations come with evolving progressive social changes. A society that remains complacent and stagnant deteriorates and eventually collapses.  No country can excel with a mindless society of puppets. The Singapore government should be grateful that its citizens are matured and not treat anyone with opposing views as public enemy. Most of them are as passionate as the government in making Singapore a better society.

Singaporeans are smart enough to see through spins and propaganda and evaluate the truths for themselves. It is difficult for most Singaporeans to remain silent whilst  government leaders lecture them to be thrifty, not to be materialistic and not to demand for higher pay. On the other hand, the leaders reward themselves with pay packages that exceed the leaders’ of the eight richest countries in the world combined.

The Singapore ministers’ argument that their pay package is only a small fraction of the country’s GDP is weak and debatable. The Canadian prime minister draws less than 10 per cent that of the Singapore prime minister’s but he governs a country 15,000 times the size of Singapore, with a population that is eight times larger and with a GDP that is ten times more. Vancouver in Canada is constantly voted the best place to live in the world. This example put the Singapore government’s argument out of context.

The government gives S$360 a month as financial support for the poor and needy. If such an amount is computed by the government as enough to survive, why then do they need to pay themselves by millions?

I cordially invite any member of parliament and/or news media reporter to come and stay with me for a period of time and I will show them that it takes only a small tiny fraction of their salaries to live happily and healthily in a beautiful environment with a  good standard of living.

Is it a surprise that Singaporeans are discontented? It is just human nature. Confucius was quoted as telling the emperor on good government:

“How can the emperor be happy when the people have nothing? How can the emperor not be happy when the people have everything?”

Does Mr. Brooks know that 79% of Singapore students after studying overseas do not return to Singapore? Are they not grateful too?

So Mr. Brooks, before you further make a fool of yourself in Singapore, be grateful to Canada and not complain because of a temporary disruption in garbage collection in Toronto. Be thankful of the good healthcare system and the generous old age pension. If you truly like Singapore you should be a citizen. There are lots of Singaporeans who are willing to trade your citizenship if it is possible.

Yours truly,

Wing Lee Cheong


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