Home » Uncategorized » You can take an immigrant out of his country, but can you take his country out of him?

You can take an immigrant out of his country, but can you take his country out of him?

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1HLP Protest - pic_201302_23large

One memorable day at Hong Lim Park on 16 Feb 2013

You can take an immigrant out of his country, but can you take his country out of him? Not by quite a long shot, it would seem…

Just three more reasons below to remind the govt just why it has to really think through very carefully the implications and ramifications of its open door policy to the mass influx of immigrants:


1. TREATING PUBLIC SPACES LIKE THEIR OWN PRIVATE PROPERTY: Picture from STOMP of some PRC women’s commandeering a stretch of a park connector fence to prepare sun dried cabbage. Has the NEA and Parks Board done anything since? Our own forefathers might had done similar things during Raffle’s and colonial time Singapore, but those times were at the dawn of our history, in a completely different era and milieu. We are more organized and more developed now. We are a first world country now, at least according to the govt.  Therefore, it has to be de rigueur for all newcomers to this place to toe the line, to conform to the norms in their newly adopted home, wherever or whatever their previous backgrounds might have been in their erstwhile home countries. In short, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

3PRC Private Bus Drivers

2. DEFIANCE OF THE LAW: This is an extract from a recent TR Emeritus article about how some PRC private bus drivers have demonstrated their unhappiness and support for 200 SMRT PRC bus drivers, who were dealt with according to the law for going on an illegal strike four months ago, over unsatisfactory lodging conditions and pay. The message from these private bus drivers, whatever their grievances are,  cannot be more clear – they are cocking a snook (i.e., a show of defiance) at the law, by taking it out on local private bus operators. They are demonstrating that they can and will hit back on behalf of their compatriots and comrades. This surely is a bad omen for continued industrial peace here.  


3. INSENSITIVE AND OFFENSIVE: This person, by the name of Li, an ex-PRC citizen, was said to have been instigated by some of his ex-countrymen located here, to speak out publicly against unhappy Singaporeans who have clamoured for the govt to exercise restrain in its lax open door policy towards immigrants that has adversely affected them in many ways. He accused Singaporeans of being xenophobic for doing so.

When he was roundly condemned for such an obviously offensive and insensitive remark, he claimed he had made it in his personal capacity even though he happened also to be an office bearer in the Federation of Chinese Clan Associations. So in the heat of the moment he allowed himself to be goaded by his ex-countrymen into it?

I should hasten to add that it is purely coincidental that all the examples above involved people of PRC origin. I have no intention to stereotype. They made the news entirely on their own steam, in a manner of speaking. In fact, I have refrained from including still others, who are responsible for even more infamous and notorious acts, that have been widely reported, in order to avoid giving the erroneous impression that people from PRC are being targeted in this post. Far from it, I think foreigners of other nationalities, so far to a much lesser extent, are equally prone. My purpose here is no more than to point out the potential and real harm and hazard a sudden mass influx of foreigners, whatever their creed or colour, would pose to indigenous Singaporeans and society, the majority of whom are economically active and has gone through our NS rites of passage, and our seniors and forefathers before them, who have struggled and contributed to make this land we call home.

Perhaps, a little bit exaggerated, but one can even say that our common love for local curries, nasi padang, chicken rice, mee rebus and satay, is one of the unifying, identifying and deciding factors of our ‘Singaporeaness’ across ethnic communities. 

Only the other day, on MediaCorp TV one hears about Indian Singaporeans voicing their unhappiness too on issues arising from the crush of Indian immigrants in their midst. I have also on a couple of occasions experienced the ‘remote treatment’ subtly meted out by foreigners who are Indians. It makes me wonder how these foreign Indians treat their fellow-Indians, whether here or in Mother India, who are perceived to be from a ‘lower caste’. Indeed, the conditioning of one’s original society, traditions and place of birth, can be overpowering. Who is to say that such conditioning would not enter into or dictate a new immigrant’s thoughts and actions in the ‘new’ country? I have wondered how the average local ethnic Indian and other Singaporeans would be treated by these ‘Brahmin’ class Indians in our midst should they ever be ‘in charge’?

There has also been adverse publicity regarding Filipinos in our midst. Although personally, most of my experiences with Filipinos here have been positive. They are basically a friendly group, at least those we meet here. It may be because the Filipinos speak English and are a more genial people by nature which facilitates communication and interaction with others. But there have been stories circulating of how locals have been ostracized or edged out of their job positions in work places and offices where foreigners, including Filipino and Indian foreigners, dominate and form a critical mass.

It is never easy to overcome the prompting and tendency to act and behave in an instinctively ‘tribal’ manner. Anyone can be guilty of this in fact. It is too instinctive and deeply embedded in a person’s psyche and habit to resist or keep under control effectively all the time. Don’t we occasionally still see its manifestations amongst some Singaporeans of different ethnic groups? What more for newcomers who are still very unsure how they can or want to fit into the overall scheme of things here? It is like a pipe dream to expect ‘integration’ (whatever that means) to any significant degree in double quick time. The Singapore govt’s integration efforts is really more apparent than real.

The govt appears to be beginning to do now what it should have done yesterday to help the situation. It would be at best an attempt at amelioration. There is fat hope of a chance of its efforts making any real impact when the rate of immigrant influx is expected to continue unabated at a high speed for at least another two decades! It is like trying to build a solid foundation on shifting sand! Better late than never, I suppose is the thinking behind.

However, the nagging doubt remains among discerning Singaporeans about whether the ‘corrective’ actions govt is apparently currently embarking on only now, is only skin-deep, not hard-burned, more apparent than real, merely a transient phase, indeed no more than a part of the process of saving itself from an ignominious outcome in the coming GE2016, that is just 2-3 years down the road. It may be as short term as that! The govt is well known for resorting to unilateral one-dimensional shortcuts to solving problems. 

The fact that the govt is desperately fast-tracking the conversion of immigrants into brand new, freshly minted citizens by the thousands in the coming 2-3 years just before GE2016, once again points strongly to the Machiavellian propensity it is known for, not unjustifiably.

But yet, it is not difficult at all if the govt is sincere to unequivocally signal a true change of heart and mindset in its governance, if that is really true, through some really conciliatory measures. It would have to start from the top from the cabinet members themselves, in particular, from the very top by the PM himself who must personally demonstrate this in speech and action by first of all confessing how the govt has lost its way in recent years in pursuit of ever higher GDP. It would have to wear it’s heart on its sleeve in order to regain the people’s trust. It does make one hell of a difference to hear it coming from the horse’s mouth so that we (people and govt) may once again close rank and work together for the common good.

Would this be politically suicidal for the PAP govt to contemplate? Not necessarily so. Singaporeans are at heart a very forgiving people. All of us are waiting for the govt to level with us.



  1. These china drivers come here based on a contract and they had agreed to their contracted salary and benefits. If they are not happy, then they should be sent back without compromise. They are no different from terrorists! And we should not be giving in to these foreigners whether on a company level or on a govt level.

  2. There are still custom made suit ny tailors in Asia are made equal!
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