The following is a letter from Richard Lim, 73:
I am an ordinary Singaporean, retired but still active. I used to work for a public transport operator who recently got into trouble. Or should I say, recently, keep getting in to trouble. But I am not going to talk about them, since I am retired. Instead, I am sharing my own observations of the general Singaporean opinions of the whole hullaballoo that has taken place.
Just about a year or so ago, the most commonly heard complaint on the street was that the government had let in too many foreign workers. If you listened carefully, the group heading the list was PRC workers. “They talk so loudly”, “They don’t know the concept of space”, “They are so rude” and so on were common refrains people used. Almost everyone I know or overheard at kopitiams said the same thing – “this garmen ah, anyhow lelong our citizenship/work permits”. Many of them felt that 5m people on tiny Singapura was too many, especially with 40% of them foreigners.
So the government started to clamp them down. Many Singaporeans, though at first skeptical, started to see that the government meant business. Slowly, SME bosses started to complain of not getting enough workers for production, service crew or in some case, washing dishes, even if he was willing to pay $3000! So we must be happy now, right?
According to the latest news I read online, apparently this is not so. Several opposition politicians, perhaps smelling an opportunity, have publicly and internationally chastised the government for arresting the PRC workers who called a strike at SMRT. Some of them, including a prominent Singaporean human rights activist, have gone on to ask the international community to collectively condemn Singapore. Why? Because every worker has the universal right to strike and Singapore allows that only after the striking workers gives advance notice. (Editor: Actually, many countries practice the civil courtesy of filing notices before a strike.)
So suddenly, we have now switched sides and think that the PRC workers are not the issue, and we should keep them in Singapore. All within a year, isn’t that amazing. No wonder they say governing is a tough business.
As someone who has lived my time, my advice to my younger Singaporeans is this: be careful about this business of anyhow hamtam-ing the government online. Just because you can let out your frustrations online without people knowing who you are, you should not recklessly use that right. What we have today is because people of my generation worked hard to take us to this level. We never questioned our ability to succeed. We never allowed foreigners and Singaporeans who do not respect Singapore to steal our agenda. We worked hard, and today we enjoy the fruits of our success. If we are not careful, all this will be lost within a short time.
I will be gone, but, will you? Think about it.
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