Last night, I decided to read the ‘Population White Paper’ document that has been making its rounds on Singaporean news networks. The ‘Population White Paper’ is a document that outlines population policies for the next few decades. Mostly, the news reports were about how flawed the document from what the title of the paper should actually be to immigration policies and baby policies.
So naturally, as a lover of intellectual debate, an amateur policy analyst and a mid-level shit disturber, I decided to weigh in on the topic. Unfortunately, the only outlet I have as a 20-something Malay woman living abroad to get my thoughts heard is the Internet. So I took to Facebook and over a 30 minute period, updated my status and comment sections with my thoughts on the White Paper.
This commentary below would make more sense if you have read the actual document. Here it is.
If you’re too lazy for that and I don’t blame you, imagine a government document with lots of touristy pictures of Singapore and its people all happy in pictures where multicultural beings wave red and white flags and children run in the park with kites. That interspersed with graphs, pie charts of population statistics and a whole bunch of words and sentences that start with ‘We will continue to…’ and ‘We must ensure…’
So here is a screenshot of the running commentary on Facebook:
If you click on the image and zoom in on it on your webpage, you should be able to read it. Otherwise, here is a transcript below:
Status update – Monday, February 4th 2013 at 8.30pm:
finally got the time to read Singapore’s recently released ‘Population White Paper’ and am already laughing at the second page. Get a load of this bull:
“We may have diverse geographical and ethnic backgrounds, but we are all Singaporean because we share certain key values and aspirations including meritocracy, a fair and just society, and respect for one another’s culture within a broad common space where all interact and bond.”
haha! gonna continue reading this tonight and see what else I can laugh at sarcastically.
Comment update – 8.35 pm:
I’m having a hard time stomaching the binaries between civilized and non-civilized here. We get it Singapore. You is developed. You is smart. You is also paranoid as shit with other countries ‘catching up on you’.
Comment update – 8.37 pm :
“We will continue to welcome immigrants who can contribute to Singapore, share our values and integrate into our society.”
read: we love people who think like us. otherwise, we dont give a shit about you. kindly exile yourself in other places. until you win the Nobel Peace Prize at which point, it will suddenly become important that you are Singaporean.
Comment update – 8.38 pm:
“Taking in younger immigrants will help us top up the smaller cohorts of younger Singaporeans and balance the ageing of our citizen population.”
We can top up populations like we top up EZ link cards.
Comment update, 8.40pm:
“Our economy must stay ahead of other Asian cities, so that we can provide them with the high-end goods and services that they need but are not yet able to produce themselves.”
read: we must make sure that we continue to oppress the working classes in our own country but also in the other countries of South East Asia.
Comment update, 8.43 pm:
OH something good at last:
‘99% of married respondents in the 2012 Marriage and Parenthood Study agreed that fathers and mothers are equally important as caregivers for children.’
Comment update, 8.49 pm:
and an acknowledgment that Singaporeans abroad aren’t useless complete with an acknowledgment? plea? for us to come home.
“Many Singaporeans living overseas continue to contribute actively to Singapore from around the world. We hope they will return home after studies or working stints abroad, adding a further dimension to our society.”
read: we want you to come home but we won’t listen to anything you have to say because you are now too Westernized. go sit in the corner and learn the words to ‘Dick Lee’s ‘Home’ again.
Comment update, 8. 54 pm:
investing in education sounds good and then it ends with this:
“The Ministry of Education is also conducting a study to see how to increase access and quality in the pre-school education sector.”
great. so my non-existent children can now be diagnosed with anxiety disorders at a younger age.
Comment update, 8.57 pm :
what is up with the coy ‘we love immigrants but we cant let too many of you guys in’ thing? make up your mind. you can’t use people like tissue paper. get em when you need them then chuck them. sheesh.
Comment update, 8.59 pm :
“All our public buses will be wheelchair-accessible by 2020, up from about half today.”
ABOUT FREAKIN TIME.
Comment update, 9.02 pm:
This is laughable:
“Our immigrant heritage has shaped the Singapore of today, including the values that we hold dear – respect for others, family ties, hard worj, meritocracy, multi-racialism as well as a robust sense of social justice, harmony and cohesion. These values have enabled Singapore to develop into a First World Country in a few short decades.”
HELLO, Singapore. Not all of us have ‘immigrant heritage’. Some of us are actually indigenous to the archipelago. But oh yea. You’ve been trying reallllllyyyy hard to forget that.
Comment update, 9.02 pm:
that followed by pictures of smiling people waving singapore flags. LOLLLL
Comment update, 9.03pm:
I have now finished reading the document. overall, an informative read – some interesting bits for sure that make me excited to be a part of the growth but some pretty serious flaws in this document.
Comment from a friend, 2 hours later:
As always, it seems as if policies don’t match with the real experiences of Singaporeans on the ground.
I know that feelings of mistrust and racism are growing towards ‘foreigners’ especially towards new non-white immigrants. If we keep talking about integration of new immigrants, where is acknowledgment for the responsibility of Singaporeans to be more empathetic towards these new immigrants?
I’ve lived in Vancouver for 6 years now and though it is far from perfect, at the very least, there are outlets, programs and communities that engage new immigrants to help us ‘integrate’ and learn about the history of this city and its inhabitants of the white settlers and First Nations peoples. There is an honest acknowledgment (in some communities and increasingly so) that Vancouver sits on unceded Coast Salish territory and movements that explicitly support anti-racism on all fronts. Can Singapore say the same? Can we honestly and openly acknowledge that Singapore sits on ‘tanah Melayu’ and that the Malays are its indigenous population, not to a country that is only half a decade old but to a region and an archipelago that dates back hundreds of thousands of years?
As long as we do not admit this to ourselves and we continue to perpetuate the idea that all Singaporeans are immigrants, we will never be able to integrate our new immigrants properly. I have heard of new immigrants disrespecting Malays and it is not uncommon to see flaming Internet-ers making rude and racist comments about Malay and Tamil communities in Singapore. There are reasons for this just like there are reasons that the Chinese community escapes this treatment that the Malays and Indians are given.
As far as the half-assed plea for Singaporeans abroad to return, Singapore has made it abundantly clear that Singaporeans overseas are largely to fend for themselves. Unless one of us brings home an ‘internationally recognized award’ given to us by White Men in the West, our presence is unimportant just like our votes in any elections.
I do love Singapore. My roots are in Singapore. My family is in Singapore. My ancestors are from Singapore. The region is my home and the nation is my home. Singapore is where I grew up and its humidity is familiar to my brown skin.
But reading policies like these just make me angry, upset and lead me to question my value as a Singaporean. It affirms my decision of self-exile from Singapore until I accumulate more degrees and more knowledge that Singapore will someday deem ‘enough’, ‘acceptable’ and ‘important’. For now, my radical left-winging shit disturbing, direct talking ways will have to wait. Singapore is not ready for me and I am not ready for Singapore.
I wish to return someday and be accepted for who I am fully, as a person – not just as a Malay person, not just as a woman, a baby-making machine, not just a young consumer but as a WHOLE person. I wish I can return someday and be loved.