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Simon Lim: It is not Singaporeans who need to integrate with foreigners, but the way around

by Simon Lim

I refer to the news about Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, calling on Singaporeans to integrate with foreigners.

Meaningful and truly successful integration of different people is much more than a few noisy and visible ministerial exhortations. What Grace Fu did was the easiest part.

It is a very long journey that must take decades to mold. It involves mutual trust, mutual respect, tolerance and a deeper understanding of each other etc.

Singaporeans of different races, the Chinese, Malays, Indians and Eurasians have demonstrated exemplary successes at racial integration among ourselves over the decades until inter-marriages today, don’t raise eyebrows. So, Grace Fu’s noisy and visible exhortations about integration at Singaporeans are barking up the wrong tree. It should instead be directed and directed more forcefully at foreigners who are new to this country instead of Singaporeans.

As a locally born Singaporean, I know it for a fact that Singaporeans, by and large, are not xenophobic toward foreigners but the real challenges are not at the workplaces or schools etc but when foreign newcomers stay in dense and close proximity to Singaporeans, it is their habits, mannerisms, lack of considerations and language etc that matter. However, well-educated ministers from the People’s Action Party (PAP) may never be able to better appreciate as much as ordinary Singaporeans because they do not have to live and/or commute in dense and close proximity with foreigners on a daily basis.

In all fairness and common decency, foreigners must work harder, a lot harder at integrating with Singaporeans and not the other way round or a mere semblance of it only. We are, after all, the “Singaporean Bumiputera” and we don’t owe them a living and if foreigners choose to be a part of us, they need to know their places and not act like immediate equals or worse, superior to us. Grace Fu better make that absolutely clear to all those foreigners that her government allows into Singapore.

If over time, Singaporeans can feel and sense their genuine desire to become a member of our big family, people will reciprocate in positive ways. And not forgetting, better educated, more successful and wealthy Indians from India may come with their caste mentality and practice. It is the PAP government’s responsibility to make it absolutely clear and in no uncertain terms to them that they better leave their caste mentality back in India!

In this age of expectation of fast results and efficiency, the good old proven fashion at integration may not be fashionable, but still, if foreigners have to go through some sorts of National Service together with Singaporeans, their children attend government neighbourhood schools with Singaporeans children and not some private schools and they are required to stay a certain numbers of years in HDB flats etc, then understanding and integrating with Singaporeans will take deeper meaning and stronger roots, otherwise, any so-called integration will be at best mere tolerance, hi and bye niceties and remain shallow. We must never be self-deceiving. Think.

This was first published on Simon Lim’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.