Integration cannot be forced

Singaporeans must anticipate the social problems that may arise before they fester on the ground and lead us astray (Integration of new Singaporeans is key, by Dr Thomas Lee Hock Seng, ST Online, Aug 13).

When many new immigrants arrive within a short period of time, there will be an impact on the existing way of life.

Our sensitive social composition makes us particularly susceptible to external influences that may fracture our hard-won harmony.

We have been brought up to be friendly and considerate to others. But it cannot be that such ingrained attitudes make us beholden to those who have no intention of being one of us.

We need foreigners to keep our economy abuzz and we welcome those who can make worthy contributions.

But they should not believe that they are doing us a favour. Both the host country and immigrants have much to gain.

We cannot force integration. It takes all sides to come out of their comfort zones to make it work. Short of pretending that all is well, we must anticipate social problems that may arise lest we begin a painful process of disintegration, not integration.

We must ask some tough questions. Are we worthy of patronage if not for the pay cheques and study grants we dish out to foreigners? When the need arises, who will stay to defend this land? And is it worth fighting for?

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2019, with the headline 'Integration cannot be forced'. Print Edition | Subscribe