Foreigners: Treat them as 'you want to be treated'

Family ties, S'pore's defence among issues minister discusses at forum

Singaporeans should treat foreigners the same way that they want to be treated when travelling overseas, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen last night.

He was speaking to a 300-strong crowd of students, staff and alumni at the National University of Singapore's monthly U@live forum, which features prominent members of the university community.

Singaporeans are "extremely generous" in their daily interactions with foreigners, said Dr Ng, who drew his observations from his work as a Member of Parliament of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

But at the national level, there tends to be "some noise" against the presence of foreign workers here, he added.

He was replying to a question from an audience member, who had asked what were some of the values among Singaporeans that should be changed.

Dr Ng also expressed concern over the state of family ties here.

"The integrity of family as a basic unit is under stress today," he noted, citing observations from his house visits.

While voluntary welfare organisations play a key role in taking care of the disadvantaged, he stressed: "Family must be the first line of defence, not the state."

The importance of family was one of the five convictions that Dr Ng shared earlier in the forum.

The others were: secularism, meritocracy, a consensus of the country's vulnerability and the need for strong national defence and security.

These issues surfaced during an interview with the forum's moderator, former Nominated MP Viswa Sadasivan.

Noting how Singapore's "vulnerability" had been repeatedly emphasised by Dr Ng and other forum participants, Mr Sadasivan asked: "Why does Singapore need a $12 billion defence budget?"

Dr Ng responded that the region was "changing drastically", citing the ongoing territorial disputes between China and Japan.

"If we don't have a strong, deterrent force, Singaporeans would be less confident about the future. We are still a point target," he said.