It is a foregone conclusion that citizenship in a country is sacrosanct. It imbues within it a sense of belonging, a feeling of security and the notion of falling within the protection of a tribe. In many ways, it forms a significant part of one’s identity, providing one with stability, structure and in many instances, a home.
In days of yore, people did not travel as much. In most cases, people lived and died within the confines of where they were born. Citizenship was, therefore, a less complicated issue. In the present age of globalisation where international travel and migration are part of modern life, the idea of citizenship has taken on a more nuanced meaning.
Every country has a different criterion for citizenship for individuals who were not born in the given country. In most instances, however, this would involve that particular individual spending a significant number of years living in that given country. In certain cases, citizenship is granted on the basis of a contribution that proves the commitment of a particular individual to that particular country. This can be in the form of the investment of a considerable sum of money into that country, paying tax in that country for a number of years or providing a service that is required and valued in the given country.
Whatever the case, citizenship is a serious affair and once granted should not be easily eroded. If that country has deemed your contributions worthy enough to grant you its highest honour (i.e. to call you one of them) it is acknowledging your commitment to it and thereby giving you its commitment and shelter in return.
Once you have been made a citizen of that country, your status in that country should be exactly the same as those who were born citizens. That is the whole point of citizenship in the first place – that your rights are fungible to those who were born citizens.
With this in mind, why is Singapore depriving a naturalised citizen of his citizenship?
Does Singapore deprive all of its other criminal citizens of their citizenship? If not, then what is the difference here?
Is there supposed to be a difference between citizens who are born and bred in Singapore and citizens who are naturalised? For the avoidance of doubt, we are not talking about permanent residents here – we are talking about citizens (i.e. people who carry the red passport with our country’s crest emblazoned on it). It is also important to note that Singapore law does not permit dual nationality. This would mean that if you have become a naturalised citizen in Singapore, you would have had to give up your citizenship elsewhere.
In this case, Singapore’s act of deprivation would render the individual in question stateless. While I do not condone his crimes, the deprivation of his citizenship does not sit quite right with me. There are laws in place to punish this person for his crimes. These laws will take its course and the person will be duly punished. Why is there a need to kick him out of the country knowing full well that he becomes stateless as a result? Would you kick out all the Singaporeans within Changi prison?
Perhaps, there would be some grounds for the deprivation of citizenship if that given individual is guilty of treason. Based on reports, however, his crimes, however serious, do not seem to amount to treason.
Citizenship in Singapore has sometimes been controversial with some sections of the country feeling that the criterion is too arbitrary and lax. This incident provides an opportunity for us to examine the issue of citizenship in Singapore.
Is there the belief that citizenship can be easily deprived because it was never that difficult to obtain in the first place? For citizenship to take on the revered status that should be accorded to it, should the criterion be more strict and transparent? Once citizenship is granted, should there be a difference between naturalised citizens and those who were born and bred in Singapore?
Editor’s note – Note that the 43-year-old former citizen wasn’t even charged in court for the crime. He was held under the temporary criminal provision act for alleged match-fixing offences. So all the information has only been provided via the allegations of the Ministry of Home Affairs and not proven in the eyes of Singapore law and its justice system.