Singapore’s Population Debate Grows Heated (Page 2 of 2)

The protest is not without its controversy, though. Critics have accused Goh of racism and xenophobia, and many of the messages seen and heard at the protest were a little too nationalistic and protectionist for comfort. Among the many placards at the protest was one that read, “Singapore for Singaporeans”, echoing catchphrases of right-wing anti-immigration groups around the world. (“Britain for the British” is one of the favourite slogans of the far-right British National Party in the United Kingdom.)

This has alienated some, preventing them from participating in the protest despite also rejecting the White Paper.

“The framing of the protest as being about ‘immigration policy’ should ring alarm bells, especially when it mirrors the rhetoric of the far-right in Europe,” says an educator I spoke with, who decided to boycott the protest. “Concerns should be placed on issues like oppressive labor laws, the commodification of space, militarization and the policies of built environment. Also, civil society should recognize its responsibility towards immigrants by building a just society for all.”

Still, many civil society members went to the protest to ensure that anti-foreigner sentiment did not dominate. Migrants’ rights activist Jolovan Wham was one of them.

“I went to the protest because I was concerned that in our enthusiasm to oppose our government’s immigration policy, we might end up unwittingly bashing foreigners,” the educator noted. “I gave out flyers at the event to reinforce the idea that criticising our lousy immigration and labor policies should not degenerate into attacks on foreigners.”

Vincent Wijeysingha, treasurer of the Singapore Democratic Party, also attended the protest to counter potential anti-foreigner sentiments. “Do not set yourselves apart from our foreign guests,” he urged the crowd in his speech. “Change your mindset: it is not they who steal our jobs and lower our wages. It is a policy framework that has forgotten that we Singaporeans are, and must be, the first and last object of governance.”

It’s clear that Singaporeans are angry, but it would be far too simplistic to pin it down to just one thing. The wave of dissatisfaction has been caused by many factors, from worries over bread-and-butter issues to a frustration over the lack of true democracy. And locals aren’t the only ones hit, either; migrant workers have also often been victims of government policy and the lack of welfare and protections.

“The problem with the White Paper is that it recommends an increase in the number of low-wage migrant workers in Singapore without providing information about how it would ensure that the rights and welfare of migrant workers would be ensured,” Whams explains. “For example, will there be sufficient decent accommodation for them? Will they end up living in slum-like conditions at construction sites like many of them do now, or in overcrowded quarters because there are insufficient dormitories? Are our social services equipped with the capacity to provide appropriate social support for them?”

Wham continues, “These questions are not being answered and unless they can show how they will ensure that the rights of migrant workers will be upheld, I reject the White Paper because we cannot just treat migrant workers as economic units to grow GDP.”

It’s not the most cheerful of situations, but Singaporeans seem to be waking up. Where this newfound motivation will lead remains to be seen; not all change is good. The hope is that people will be aware that change needs to come not just from the government, but also in mindsets long cultivated from years of rhetoric and “mainstream values” foisted on the populace. Fortunately, many young Singaporeans aren’t giving up.

“I'm concerned for my country and I'm not one who runs away when things get tough,” says Lin. ”This is my country and I take ownership.”

Kirsten Han is a writer, videographer and photographer. Originally from Singapore, she has worked on documentary projects around Asia and written for publications including Waging Nonviolence, Asian Correspondent and The Huffington Post. 

December 15, 2013 at 12:24

Singapore must remain a Chinese majority nation.

[...] Singapore's population Debate Grows Heated Lin, a financial planner, and her family are currently living with her folks- and brother-in-law; five adults and one youngster squeezed into a four-room flat in one in every of Singapore's many public housing estates. She and her husband, a trip sales agent … learn extra on the Diplomat [...]

March 25, 2013 at 13:30

[...] media became the main platform for local Singaporeans to voice their opposition and grievances over the surge in foreigners in recent years. These sudden influx would put a strain [...]

March 17, 2013 at 13:44

Japan has large numbers of migrant workers working in its factories. Honda would not be able to make anything without South American labour.

[...] and implications of government measures have been reflected in the demography.matters blog, in the Diplomat as well as on MercatorNet recently. With about one third of the Singaporean population of [...]

February 23, 2013 at 22:36

Look at Japan and other great economic powers of the world. They don’t import foreigners in great number to boost economic growth. In fact, most of them take only real talents of the world. They don’t support their SMEs to grow locally due to limited land and lack of cheap labour. It makes for sense for them to ask and support their SMEs to go overseas and grow. These Japanese companies are in US, ASEAN, Europe, etc to tap on their land, labour and market. Singapore economic model is wrong. It is like banging yourself against the wall one day. The people up there have turned deft !

[...] Singapore’s Population Debate Grows Heated (The [...]

February 22, 2013 at 20:45

Malaysia and Singapore has a love hate relationship. The politics are also of the same temperance. Both PAP and UMNO has very close working relationships. In 2013 Malaysia GE, the result is going to affect 2016 Singapore GE.

As a Singaporean, I firmly believe that whatever my forefathers have worked for, they belong to this land. Singapore is a very different country than most countries. We have alot of money, a citizenship entitles u to a share in our reserves, not debts like others. Hence, I rather use the money to build a gold pyramid than to give a single cent to foreigners.

February 21, 2013 at 13:51

As long as Malaysia predominated Malay Governement  continue to discriminate the minority races,

there is no way Singaporeans will consider at all of re-joing Malaysia.

Hong Kong Citizen
February 21, 2013 at 02:27

@ John Chan


You are a mainland Chinese, they are very racists people anyways so please don't try and pull racists card on here. Everybody in Hong Kong do not like the CCP and how corrupt and polluted it is. In fact there are many protests in Hong Kong saying that we want the British back!! The British treated us with equality and respect, CCP is just greedy!!!

February 16, 2014 at 00:21

You mean the British treated the Chinese with equality and respect by selling opium to China? And do you mean the HK slumlords are not greedy when they charge sky high rents for the privilege of living in a box?

February 20, 2013 at 17:12

It is better for Singapore to form a new union with Malaysia. After all, it was once part of the Malaysian Federation. The old leaders or old hot-air bags of suspicion that once ruled Malaysia are gone and the present batch of leaders are aware that minorities are not a liability to the country since they are shrinking, (relative to the current population size) and not growing at all.

December 16, 2013 at 04:06

Anyone joining the corrupted racist Malaysian Government is looking for troubles. In fact the earlier batch of Malay leaders like Tunku and Onn Jaafar is one of best exemplary and distinguish leaders. Malaysia has since gone to the dogs since the day an Indian Muslim by the name of Mahathir was elected as Prime Minister. The majority of Malaysians named him as Father of corruption, racism and nepotism.

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