Friday, December 07, 2007

My Straits Times Rebuttal

Start making foreigners feel like one of us

I REFER to the letter, 'MOM too liberal about jobs for foreigners' (ST, Dec 1), and other letters on foreigners in our midst.
It seems to me that our friends from overseas living here are constantly being reminded that they are 'foreigners'. Is there such a need?
When I was working and living in Australia, no one referred to me as a foreigner and no one referred to me as an Asian. My nationality did not render me a 'foreigner'.
Because Australians did not have the 'us versus them' distinction, I was made to feel like one of them every day.
Also, I had not heard any Australian complain that people from overseas were taking away jobs from the locals.
They seemed to welcome people from overseas with open arms and treated them like one of them. Partly because of this, I had a wonderful time there. When I left Australia to work here, I felt like I was leaving home because of how they made me feel at home.
In contrast, in Singapore it seems to be constantly 'us versus foreigners', 'us versus expatriates', 'us versus ang mohs'. Do we not realise that such terms are unfriendly and divisive? Could we not do without them?
Isn't it time we stopped sending out the message, via terms like 'foreigners' - even if implicitly - that people from overseas living here don't belong here?
Isn't it time we started making them feel like one of us? Isn't it time we started appreciating the cultural diversity and richness they bring with them to Singapore?
We talk about Singapore being a global city, with global visions and aspirations. However, it appears to me that the way some Singaporeans see things is not compatible with this notion.
Singapore may be a global city in many aspects, but I am not sure if it has such a spirit.

Dr Wong Jock Onn

My Rebuttal

Xenophobic? Problem not unique to S'pore

IN THE letter, 'Start making foreigners feel like one of us' (ST, Dec 5), Dr Wong Jock Onn lamented that while Singapore is a 'global city in many aspects', he is 'not sure if it has such a spirit'.
Dr Wong presented a rosy picture of Australia, where he received very favourable treatment by the locals. I would like to point out that his experience remains personal and subjective.
In truth, no country is picture perfect. Liberal democratic societies, like Britain and Australia, continue to be plagued by xenophobia as well.
Furthermore, the local populations in these countries are allowed to openly criticise foreigners, as evident in the case of Australia where, until today, the One Nation Party created by Pauline Hanson still exists.
My point in citing these examples is that every society will be faced with problems with regard to the arrival of foreigners. Singapore is no exception.
Dr Wong should be glad that the presence of a strong government in Singapore has prevented such xenophobia from leading to riots in the streets.
Where issues of race and nationality are concerned, Singapore continues to tread a fine line in fostering social harmony.
Instead of wishing this problem of xenophobia away, we should instead take steps to educate the population, so as to reduce and control such sentiments in the long term.

Sing Keng Loon

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