Written by Ng E-Jay
16 June 2009
It was reported in Monday’s edition of the Straits Times that a new park in Bishan, called the Bishan Harmony Park, has been created to allow residents to mingle with each other. The park includes an inline skating court, skateboarding ramps, a skating bowl, a garden maze, fitness corners, and barbecue pits.
In his speech to residents, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng, an MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, said that as their community grows, they can expect to see more new neighbours, local and foreign, hence the creation of the park to forge neighbourliness.
My contention, however, is that if the Government is truly serious about promoting and preserving social harmony, it is new policies, rather than new parks, that are needed.
Increased mobility and immigration in the globalized era has caused social problems in many developed and developing countries, and the challenges faced by our nation in community integration is by no means unique.
But with its “growth-at-all-cost” model of economic management, our Government is taking its pro-foreigner policies to the extreme, and its policies often leaves its own citizens feeling like second class residents living in a hotel rather than a home.
What is needed instead is:
- a more sustainable model of economic management that recognizes the long term limitations of our nation’s growth rate,
- a more controlled rate of import of foreigners and more careful selection of the quality of foreign manpower we are importing,
- a more comprehensive social safety net for the needy, elderly and sick,
- independent labour unions that genuinely seek to protect the rights of Singaporean workers, and
- a “Singaporeans first” policy that gives due recognition and assistance to National Servicemen who have had their studies and careers disrupted due to National Service, and policies to ensure they are not being discriminated against in the workplace.
Without the above, social harmony will not be achieved no matter how many beautiful parks and dazzling stadiums are built. It would be like building sandcastles in the air — a quest fit only for a daydreaming Government.
Recent inter-school badminton match provides warning signs of unhappy sentiments against foreigners
It was reported in the Kent Ridge Common as well as The Star that during the recent National Inter-school ‘A’ division badminton finals, what was supposed to be a simple contest between 2 schools ended up being polarized into a Singapore versus China showdown.
The boys’ and girls’ teams from Raffles Junior College consisted of Singaporeans, while the girls’ team line-up from Jurong Junior College consisted entirely of Chinese nationals. Of the 7 members in the Jurong Junior College boys’ team, 4 were from China, 1 from South Korea and 2 were Singaporeans.
The glaring bias displayed by Jurong Junior College in enlisting the help of foreigners to the almost complete exclusion of Singaporean participants led to heavy criticism and unhappy sentiments which erupted into a major outcry at the competition itself, with even supporters from Raffles Junior College’s arch rivals cheering them on.
This furore highlights the undercurrent of resentment against the indiscriminate import of foreigners, which cause economic hardship for working class citizens, who now find themselves competing with the rest of the world for a small turf called Singapore that they used to be able to call their home.
The anxiety about foreigners depriving locals of jobs as well as the accompanying social consequences of forcing a large number of foreigners to abruptly integrate into the local community may only get worse if the recession continues.
Rather than spending so much public money building new parks and creating new facades, the Government should seriously rethink its economic policies and strategies, and invest in securing jobs and providing good infrastructure and social services for its citizens.