by Joseph Nathan
There are obvious discrepancies in some of our Free Trade Agreements “FTAs” that are detrimental to the well being of Singaporeans. Despite much feedbacks and criticisms, our current 4G politicians seem to prefer being oblivious to these issues rather than solving them.
Over time, these issues became protracted and contentious when more Singaporeans find themselves being displaced from good-paying jobs, with some being reduced to serving these new Foreign Talents as drivers or being retrenched into low-paying and stressful jobs such as security guards or cleaners if they are fortunate to find a job.
While Singapore has been well ranked in the world for our education, it is getting disheartening to be learning that some of our children are now graduating into unemployment or having to take on less lucrative jobs despite our economic success.
When Foreign Talents who got into our workforce through FTAs such as the CECA despite graduating from unranked universities in their homelands, questions are being asked about what are our universities and Ministry of Education doing about it. What is the use of Singapore spending a big budget to ensure our universities are well-ranked when our graduates cannot compete with graduates from unranked universities or roadside training centres in our own private sector?
These are serious issues that any citizen-centric government will address with urgency. In the case of Singapore, it is hard to comprehend as to why our 4G government is still trying to downplay these realities and treat feedbacks and criticisms with contempt.
When foreigners are treated better than Singaporeans
Our present government must start to seriously differentiate their foreign and investment policies from its domestic socio-economic policies. It is reasonable to welcome foreigners, their specialized competencies and Foreign Direct Investments “FDIs” but these must be balanced against the many trade-offs. When it comes to our domestic socio-economic policies, it is clearly not showing explicitly or vividly that it pays to be a patriotic Singaporean. In its current form, the endless demands outweigh the benefits of being a Singaporean.
From tertiary education to National Service, from employment to business opportunities, from public housing to race-based policy, Singaporeans are being made to feel like second class citizens, slaving right in their homeland.
We are witnessing enclaves of foreigners forming without restraint within our residential space yet Singaporeans are being restricted from forming their own enclave with restrictive public housing policy. Has someone in our Ministry of National Development forgotten that race or nationalistic enclave by foreigners is equally adverse to our Nation Building?
Unless our present government has a double-standard policy that favour foreigner over its own citizens, it is reasonable for Singaporeans to be demanding for a more transparent and fairer socio-economic policy when it comes to foreign talent and new citizens.
Unrestraint exploitation of our immigration policy
Our immigration policy is being exploited by many new citizens. Some male Permanent Resident “PR” deliberately timed their application for citizenship after they are sure that they would not have to serve National Service. Others selectively apply for citizenships only for themselves and their female children while conveniently leaving out their male children. With their PR status, they get to enjoy almost the full benefits of being a Singaporeans without the burden of their social responsibilities. This is neither tenable nor fair.
Before we start blaming these new citizens, we should be asking the relevant ministries and their agencies as to how they could be so blind or clueless to such extensive exploitations by these new citizens. It is all about maximizing the benefits for themselves against having the least responsibilities.
To make matters worse, our current 4G PAP leaders even promoted one such character as a minister. From an ethical or moral stance point of view, the action of this person makes a mockery of our patriotism for having timed his citizenship to gain maximum benefits and privileges out of our immigration system without the need to serve in our National Service.
As such, our political leaders must understand that they are the one who are sowing and flaming the growing contentious divide between the people and the government. Patriotic citizens are merely vocalizing their failures and incompetence.
Patriotism is the foundation of good governance
Singaporeans who have been vocal about these issues are merely being patriotic. It takes time and resources to articulate feedbacks or to be critical of our socio-economic policies with the sole objective of improving our public governance, the well-being of fellow-Singaporeans and our country. When these well-intended feedbacks and criticisms were ignored, real patriotism is being undermined.
History has shown us that any country that lacks patriotism will collapse without exception. Patriotism, from the perspective of democracy, is the natural counter-balance to good governance. If any government has been proactively managing their socio-economic well, such issues would have been well mitigated centuries ago.
It is precisely due to the fact that when the present government failed to manage the discrepancies caused by their poorly crafted socio-economic policies, patriotic citizens have to be burdened with the task of escalating these issues into the public domain. If all else failed, then protest is the next course of valid action until the people have the chance to vote for a positive change in government.
Protest is a positive function of functional-democracy
As such, protest is a function of our democratic system of governance. Valid grievances must be allowed and not be suppressed in any functional democracy. This unique feature differentiates democracy from other autocratic or dictatorial governance such as communist or socialist type.
The country belongs to the people. At election time, it is the people who must be free to elect representatives who they think can serve them and the country well. In between election time, feedbacks and criticisms take the first course of action and when that failed and when the issues become pressing, then protest become the next best course of action. This is the basic right of the people in any given democracy.
While it is true that protest does embarrass the incumbent government, they have themselves to blame in the first place. If they do not want to be embarrassed, then they should be responsive to the plights and concerns of their people. As such, by putting more onerous restrictions and regulations upon patriotic Singaporeans from staging valid protest, it becomes a double-edged sword that will ultimately hurt the country.
Should these restrictions and regulations fall into the hand of the rogue government, they could well be used to suppress the people from staging valid protests. This will ultimately lead to social upheaval as seen in other parts of the world.
Even our first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew has warned Singaporeans explicitly about this risk, without exception even to his own PAP government. For an ultra-rich country like Singapore, such risks are real and imminent, and Singaporeans should take heed of his warning and take their vote seriously by voting for deserving politicians and not be fooled by any political party. Political leaders must be at the service of its people.
As such, when the Police called in Gilbert Goh for questioning over his Anti-CECA Protest at Hong Lim, many cans of the worm were opened. Like the Pink-Dot Protest, it is indeed onerous and mind-blowing for the authority to be holding patriotic Singaporeans responsible against foreign interference.
If our government is indeed against all form of foreign interference, then it must first lead by example. It should not have enlisted the help of foreigners such as NAS DAILY or others to advocate on their behalf. Promoting Singapore is one thing but for these foreigners to be telling the world that all is well in SG when the harsh realities are pointing in the opposite direction is another. It is natural for patriotic Singaporeans to be upset by such foreign interference that, from their perspective, seek to distort the truth and undermine their plights and valid concerns.
As Hong Lim Park is the only designated protest site in Singapore, the relevant authorities ought to be putting up clear signs more prominently to warn foreigners and tourists from venturing into the park whenever protest is being staged. Better still, all inbound flights, at the two causeways and ports, should carry such messaging so as to warn foreigners and tourists alike to stay clear of Hong Lim Park.
If the government and the relevant authorities are not treating the risk of foreign interference more vigorously but expect patriotic Singaporeans to take on such hefty responsibilities, then the whole issue of foreign interference becomes debatable.
Question is, why was this bill passed in parliament without more stringent review and why has no one in parliament raise the risk about rogue government being able to exploit this law to suppress the people as explicitly warned by Lee Kuan Yew? While Lee Kuan Yew may have passed on, this advice of his remains valid. Have our politicians also forgotten the many other good bits of advice from our Founding Fathers who reminded them to always put the welfare and interest of Singaporeans ahead of themselves? If so, why bother to build a Founders’ Memorial?
If any foreigner or tourist is to venture into Hong Lim Park, the onus should be on the police to arrest them and charge them directly for breaking the law. This will send a strong message to the world that Singapore does not tolerate foreign interference. Isn’t this a much more desirable option? Better still, why not build a “wall” around Hong Lim Park to send a clear and loud message to the world?
Do we value patriotism?
If our politicians do truly value patriotism, then they must stand up and seriously review this bill and several other recently introduced bills that may be used by rogue government and politicians to curtail valid criticisms. The alternative to being patriotic is to be spineless or become a pushover. Should Singapore be reduced to a nation of spineless people or pushovers, then all of our past efforts and resources spent on National Security and National Defense will be wasted. Worse still, we will become the laughing stock of Asia.
On this serious note, I hope our Defense Minister will weigh in seriously and not allow patriotism to be trampled by any party-politics or laws. Should the political divide become even more contentious, then it may be too late when a rogue government or politician plunder the wealth of our nation and exploit our citizens mercilessly. As such, patriotism needs to be championed consistently by our leaders so that it will be seen to be triumphing above any party politics or agenda.
Instead of focusing to win big at the next election, I hope our 4G politicians will wake up and see the mess that they have created. The current political divide that is distancing the people from the government is largely due to their collective incompetence. Instead of invoking more laws that could be exploited by rogue politicians, they should be heeding the advice of Lee Kuan Yew more seriously by addressing the plights and concerns of Singaporeans, and ensure that our socio-economic policies are indeed citizen-centric.
While we welcome new citizens, they must know that it is not acceptable for them to be running amok, exploiting our socio-economic system or be treated above patriotic Singaporeans. To put it bluntly, Singapore and patriotic Singaporeans deserve much better.
This was first published on Joseph Nathan – Hard Truths of SG’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.