News @ AsiaOne

PM Lee worried about growing divide in Singapore

He highlighted the growing divide between Singaporeans and new migrants. -AsiaOne

Thu, Apr 05, 2012

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted the possible growing divide between Singaporeans and new migrants, such as new citizens, permanent residents or foreign workers.

This was one of the two worrying trends he identified while speaking to reporters from Singapore after a two-day Asean Summit in Phnom Penh.

The other trend he mentioned is people saying 'no' to having public facilities in their neighbourhoods. This has been dubbed as the "Not In My Backyard", or Nimby, syndrome.

Mr Lee warned that these trends stand in the way of a cohesive community and called on Singaporeans to buck the trend.

"If we take this self-centred approach to problems, we will not be able to do the best for ourselves as a community," said Mr Lee.

The concerns he expressed comes after a series of events that had caused much discussion.

Recently, a blog post by a Chinese student Sun Xu from the National University of Singapore stating that there were 'more dogs than humans' in Singapore, caused an uproar and led some Singaporeans to view other foreigners in the same light.

Mr Lee said that although Mr Sun should not have made the remark, Singaporeans however have to maintain a balance "and not get worked up every time someone misspeaks".

"He shouldn't have made that blog post. He did. He has been chastised, he has been disciplined, he's sorry about it," he said.

"And I think we should accept that. We should have been able to move on from that and deal with it as one person who misspoke. We should not, because of one incident, make that into an issue - all immigrants are like that."

He said Singaporeans must also feel together ethnically so that race, language and religion do not become sensitive issues, especially in the Internet age where it is easy to get people upset about such subjects.

Mr Lee also brought up the incident where residents at Toh Yi Drive and Woodlands engaged in a debate over the building of facilities for the elderly near their homes.

He urged Singaporeans to not allow Nimby to become a general attitude, 'because then we will stymie ourselves', and that Singaporeans should think as a community - something which has brought the country to where it is today.

"Singapore has made a lot of progress and you have a much better Singapore than if we had stayed put and everything had been 'No'.

"And we must make sure we don't end up a lot of things 'No'. We have to consult, we have to adjust - you look at Bukit Brown, you have to talk, you have to explain. But if at the end, we cannot move at all, you will not only not have tomorrow's Singapore, we wouldn't even have today's Singapore.

"You will be where you were in the 1960s, and I think it will be a very unhappy state," said Mr Lee.

During the interview, Mr Lee also gave his remarks on changes in the Cabinet after the watershed general election last May when the People's Action Party's vote share slipped to an all time low.

Mr Lee said yesterday that Singapore is in 'a new phase' and that the government has changed its approach in many areas. He emphasised that this was a necessary and helpful change.

Although a 'certain stability' in the mood and expectations of Singaporeans has been restored, Mr Lee acknowledged that it will take some time more "and the balance between speaking out and working together is something which still needs to be worked upon".

Mr Lee pledged to rethink policies and promised to work harder at engaging a new generation of more vocal Singaporeans.

"Of course the government must do all it can, that is its responsibility. But it's also how we can work together to make Singapore succeed. And that calls for Singaporeans to not just speak out, but also to participate and to feel the responsibility to do their part to make things happen the right way.

"We can't make sure that on every project, everybody will win. But take all the projects together, I think all of us have done better than we would otherwise have done," said Mr Lee.


Copyright ©2011 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.
Privacy Statement Conditions of Access Advertise