“The Singapore Core cannot be anything other than Singaporeans,” said Progress Singapore Party (PSP) Youth Wing leader Jess Chua, referring to Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s remarks earlier in May when he said that the “Singapore core” should not be too narrowly defined in terms of whether someone is Singapore-born, a new citizen, or a foreigner who is helming a company.
Mr Heng had said on 17 May at a press conference by the Emerging Stronger Taskforce, “That test for us must be the commitment to Singapore, the commitment to the well-being of Singapore and of Singaporeans,” he said.
Responding to this, Ms Chua took to Facebook on 23 May to express her dismay over the DPM’s comments and took issue with his choice of using “commitment” as a yardstick on who forms the Singaporean core.
She wrote, “While certain commitments may span decades, others last a few years or even just a season.
“Work commitment for example is rewarded with remuneration and ends once the employment contract ceases.
“On the other hand, citizenship is a life-long commitment that does not come with pre-negotiated benefits. In most cases, people do not get to choose their citizenship – it is a natural bond often lasting a lifetime. Singapore citizens, natural or naturalised alike, must be the Singapore Core. Period.”
Using chicken rice as an analogy, Ms Chua explained that while the chilli sauce add flavour, it is not the core of the dish which is the chicken and the rice. In this analogy, citizens are the chicken and rice while foreigners are the chilli sauce.
She added, “A good chilli sauce merely complements the Chicken Rice but can never be the Chicken Rice itself.”
“In the same vein, foreign labour complements our local workforce by supplying missing skillsets, or by filling up positions in sectors which the local workforce may be unsuited for.”
She went on to stress that Non-Singaporeans are not unimportant just because they do not make up the core of the nation, highlighting how they have been part of Singapore’s society and will continue to be called on to complement the local workforce.
Where some may decide to sink in roots here, like Ms Chua’s own mother, others may decide to return to their home countries. When this happens, the country does not lose part of its core, she stressed.
“Our Singapore Core is irreplaceable,” Ms Chua emphasised, adding that government policies must be built around this core even if it may not produce quick results or not be more cost-effective in the short term.
In the earlier press conference, Mr Heng had said that in his own experience running the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) during the 2008 to 2009 financial crises, many chief executives of international banks in Singapore had given him outstanding advice on how to deal with the crisis, thus demonstrating that they had Singapore’s interest at heart.
He had said, “Some of the CEOs from these banks are as Singaporean as Singaporeans who were born in Singapore and went through national service,” adding that some of them eventually became citizens.
Countering this, Ms Chua shared her own experience working with many Non-Singaporeans in her time at multinational companies, people who are “committed” to their work and “appreciative” of what Singapore has to offer.
However, she added: “Regardless of their abilities and level of contributions, none of them came to Singapore out of altruism; they did not travel across countries merely wanting to help build Singapore or boost our Gross Domestic Product.
“They came here to seek better opportunities for themselves – and there is nothing wrong with that.
“While Singapore benefited from their contributions, they in turned gained the means to lead better lives and/or to better provide for their own families.”
She cautioned, “The powers that be should not obfuscate the Singapore identity to suit their political objectives,” and emphasised that the Singapore core cannot be anything other than Singaporeans.
She also shared the 1978 National Day Parade theme song, “We are Singapore, Singaporeans”, describing it as her favourite National Day Song for it’s “meaningful, simple and unambiguous lyrics”.
“Now it serves as a beacon to be for what the Singapore Core should be,” she concluded.