The Straits Times
Published on Dec 19, 2012

Timely reminder to keep S'pore open


PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong's recent speech to People's Action Party cadres was a welcome reminder that Singapore must remain open to foreigners or lose its reputation as a "living, vibrant city" ("PM defends three core principles of Singapore"; Dec 3).

Singaporeans have objected to the influx of foreigners in recent years.

But the Government's efforts to mollify them by sharpening the distinction between citizens and non-citizens have only resulted in demands for more.

This insistence on citizens' privileges is not patriotism, and reduces citizenship and national identity to the value of its perks, somewhat like a club membership.

The obsession with making foreigners unwelcome has led us to reject measures to help Singaporeans.

For instance, SMRT's decision to make station announcements in Mandarin - the home language of many of the ethnic Chinese here - was a practical move that inconvenienced no one. Yet, instead of calling for equal air time for Malay and Tamil, some demanded the sole use of English lest Chinese immigrants benefit.

This zero-sum mentality - that citizens gain only at others' expense - creates a negative spirit that prevents us from making rational choices.

It hurts our ability to attract and retain foreign talent. Singaporeans with foreign spouses would think twice about raising their families here.

Moderate Singaporeans must challenge such sentiments or we might risk even more acute demands.

I hope the Government and other organisations will withstand the pressure to make short-term decisions that ultimately compromise our future.

Estella Young (Ms)