I write to you here with the intent of talking about an incident, which while seemingly a day-to-day episode, yet raises many questions about the social fabric of our society, and what have basically gone wrong over these last few years owing to our lax immigration policies.
I am currently employed as a professor at an overseas university, although I am Singaporean, and during these last few days, in between preparing to fly to the destination country by packing my luggage, I was sorting out my immigration stuff including photos which I might need to obtain to apply for visa and permanent residency elsewhere, should the need come up. While at the photo lab, or photo developing studio, asking the boss about the charges and package for such photos, two Malaysian women who were dressed rather simply and were crippled in English noted my request to the boss, and asked me whether I was a PR or a Singaporean citizen. Notably, they admitted that they were Singaporean PRs and were in need of photos to develop, so that they can get the stamp of approval on their Malaysian passports at the Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority for maintaining PR status.
The moment that they heard that I was going overseas to work and am obtaining residency elsewhere, they blurted out rudely in Chinese, “Aren’t you betraying your country by migrating to another country? Isn’t Singapore a good country? (“你这样移民不是背叛你的国家吗？ 新加坡哪里不好？”) There was a note of contempt in the way they spoke to me, which gave it away that they obviously were not planning to give up their citizenships as Malaysians anytime, and were just here as cheap unskilled workers. I retorted at them saying, “If you want to talk about betrayal, then maybe you want to look at yourself first because you migrated to Singapore and got permanent residency as Malaysians here. There is no such thing called betrayal when the government has betrayed us, and given our jobs away to cheaper workers like you.” The moment that I said that, she kept quiet and looked away, still contemptuous.
This episode was thankfully a really short and recent episode which I hope will not recur in my life ever again, even as someone who has seen my fair share of nasty and good-willed foreigners working here. I believe that there is an inherent scorn and contempt that foreigners have for Singaporeans here, regardless of the economic and social status of Singaporeans and their station in life. What caused this kind of divide and this kind of attitude to start looming large amongst foreigners and the way they look at Singaporeans derogatorily?
There was a recent case of a few mainlander Chinese men, who made fun of Singaporeans online on youtube, with one of them subsequently being fired and suspended from enrolment in the private school he enrolled in here. There has also been another recent case of a Filipina nurse and worker in the Ministry of Health who posted derogatory remarks about Singaporeans being the first to leave in times of war and being useless cowardly men, when the truth was unearthed by bloggers (as well as the alleged “confession” of the “culprit”) that it was actually her Singaporean Chinese husband—a MOE teacher—who posted these derogatory and insulting statements about Singaporeans under her name and facebook account. These foreigners are often treated much better in comparison with Singaporeans at the workplace, and if not, their pay packages, no matter how low, are something that does not involve CPF deduction. Without CPF included, and the relatively high exchange rate of the Singaporean dollar to their country’s currencies(such as the Malaysian Ringgit, the Chinese Renminbi, the Filipino peso etcetera), they save up what they can and then direct their money outside of Singapore towards their own country. To them, Singapore is of course a golden goose which they can fleece the eggs off while they are around, before they leave. They often also do not understand the sentiments underlying Singaporeans’ sense of disenfranchisement and dissatisfaction, owing to issues like housing loans to pay off, a CPF account which they cannot obtain the access of money to till they are older than 62, the instability of maintaining any job past one’s late 30’s etcetera, especially for the educated lot of Singaporeans who need to have better-paying jobs to be able to pay off these loans.
Furthermore, these foreigners inherently have no loyalty to Singapore at all, and are the first to leave in times of war and economic collapse, since Singapore is not their home, and their loyalties lie elsewhere. The rudeness with which the Malaysian woman called my foreign work stint a betrayal of my country as a Singaporean however raised these few questions in me.
Over the last few years, the Singaporean government has been desperate to add numbers to our already large population in the name of maintaining GDP growth, quoting fears and anxieties that if we do not do so, then nobody will do the jobs that are lying around, and that Singapore’s economy will NOT DO WELL, so to say. These constant hammering of these ideas into our heads via mainstream media have also been reinforced by the large influx of real immigrants in terms of both new permanent residents and new citizens. I do not want to speculate on the political justifications of such lax immigration policies, but while they constantly continue to do so (at least until the recent GE which had sent obvious signals that the people of Singapore were not happy with them over their style of governance), it does appear at times that the government seems bent on importing a large group of unskilled workers who would not question their system and the status quo, and who would just support the establishment. Needless to say, even as a working professional myself, while back here from overseas, I have not seen that many cases of professionals being hired in places like the coffee shop and restaurants and so on, to prove that these workers are really as gifted as the media makes them out to be. Is the government seriously just bent on importing numbers into our shores so as to maintain a status quo of rich versus poor, of the elite versus the people?
I believe that those reading this blog will remember that in the early part of this century, starting since the late 1990’s, a former Senior Minister called the Singaporeans who left to study and work overseas when offered better chances abroad “quitters”. That comment unleashed a whole can of worms when the online media discovered that he himself had 2 daughters who are citizens or permanent residents somewhere else, one in the UK and another in the USA. With the Wikileaks comment on another Minister’s sons having dual citizenships (US American and Singaporean) up till the age of 18, this question of allegiance is being brought up. It is unfair to label Singaporeans who leave for overseas to study, work and live as “quitters”, simply because in all fairness of the word, we would not have “quitted” this country if this country’s government had not in itself chosen to sacrifice us in the name of GDP numbers to other foreigners and depreciated our own worth constantly by saying we are “not good enough”.