First off, I want to thank you for organizing the protest next week.
While I am ambivalent about the subject of the protest itself, I intend to attend the rally, and wanted to write to you if I don’t get the chance to meet you in person.
My name is Geoffrey, I am a foreigner who has just started working in Singapore via employment pass.
I have only been in Singapore for four months, and already I have felt the undertones of rising discontent among Singaporeans concerning the government and the current social conditions.
While the current situation is understandably terrible, I feel this is also an exciting time for Singaporeans to make their voice heard as more and more people are willing to take the risk of standing up against oppression.
In my short stay here in Singapore, I have come to learn that I have taken for granted certain rights from my home country which I had always presumed were inalienable human rights, rights that do not apply here in Singapore today.
In particular, I was appalled by the lack of freedom of speech and heavy censorship in Singapore, especially when it comes to protesting or peaceful demonstrations, apparently illegal, and voicing political concerns.
It is my firm personal belief that no matter how radical or wild the idea, it is a basic human right to be able to freely speak his or her opinion concerning government policy or social conditions.
Otherwise, how can legitimate political or social improvements ever be made?
Hence, despite the fact that I am not a Singaporean, and that I am apparently a foreigner whom this protest is targeted against, I applaud your efforts and willingness to speak up in spite of what consequences may follow, and I am eager to attend the protest as well, so that I can further understand the social climate in the country I am currently living in.
With that said, I do fear that the protest will head into a xenophobic, prejudiced, or discriminatory direction against the foreigner population, which in an understandably charged and emotional atmosphere could get out of hand.
I am eager to hear what is your personal stance on foreigners in Singapore, both on the current population and the government’s projected trajectory, and what your aim/goal for the protest?
In my mind, the problem is not (or ought not to be) the pure population numbers of 6.9mm by 2030, nor the percentage makeup by foreigners, etc., but rather the current political system, which seems to flaunt public opinion and makes its decisions without input from the people.
Hence, I hope that the rally next weekend will not be misdirected against the foreigners themselves, but against the political system enabling it as a whole.
I like to think of it this way: the people living in Singapore are like tenants in a flat, and the political leaders like the owners or landlords.
Now suppose, without listening to any input from his tenants, the landlord hosts a big party and invites everyone from the other neighborhoods.
In my opinion, it is not necessarily the party-goers who are at fault, but the landlord. After all, they were politely invited and were not at all informed about the tenants’ situation prior to arrival.
Therefore, it seems quite silly to be angry at them! On the other hand, the owner should ask for the approval of the tenants before inviting the guests.
True, the landlord is the owner and he can do as he pleases. However, the tenants still pay the rent too and it is always quite rude not to ask your housemates before bringing guests over!
Along those same veins, I hope that the protest will be oriented not against the foreigners themselves, nor on the other extreme as an anti-government conspiracy, but as an honest outlet for the people of Singapore to vent their frustrations and speak up on a public forum, and most of all, for the people of Singapore to feel that they can express themselves and be heard, without fear of punishment, and to feel that they do play a role in shaping the direction and changes that this country will be making.
At the end of the day, I am still a foreigner here in Singapore, so I apologize if I am speaking out of turn or without fully understanding plight of the local Singaporeans. With that said though, I am excited for what will take place next week, and eager to learn from others’ perspectives there.
I hope that there will be a great turnout, and that there will be positive results to follow!
Editor’s Note: This commentary was taken off our Facebook event page for the protest on 16 Feb.