When I read news like how anti-foreign protesters are burning down factories in Vietnam, I question whether Singaporeans are really xenophobic. Despite our grouses against an increasingly foreign population crowding out our infrastructure and job market, we do not burn factories or murder foreigners or push aliens onto subway tracks.
In fact, Singaporeans are far from xenophobic. When Mainland Chinese, Huang Na was murdered by a Malaysian on local soil, we opened our wallets and donated enough money for her mother to buy a bungalow. When a Thai girl fell onto the MRT tracks and lost her legs, we donated money to cover her hospital fees and more. When disasters occur in neighboring countries, Singaporeans are always among the first to offer help and relief.
The people and government officials who accuse Singaporeans of xenophobia have taken our good nature for granted. For 40 years Singaporeans have never rioted or went on strike. The first non-sanctioned strike in modern times involved only Mainland Chinese bus drivers. The first riot since independence that resulted in many torched vehicles was committed not by Singaporeans but by Indian foreign workers. Another strike we had that involved SIA pilots was instigated by Malaysians who, subsequently got their PRs revoked by none other than Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew.
Now, I am ranting here not to promote xenophobia but to remind Singaporeans and our critics about who we really are. We are the people who despite working the longest hours in the world and in one of the most unhappy workforce at wages that have not risen faster than inflation levels for the low income group, continue to do so without striking or rioting. We are the people who see our sons and brothers sacrifice their lives, sweat, tears and 2 years and more of their time for an increasingly dichotomous society where foreign talents appear to be able to enjoy this peace and security without any of the sacrifice.
When you think about it, it is almost impossible to find another culture that will take so much shit and sacrifice 2 years of their lives without violently protesting, especially when, every other day governments are being overthrown and heads of states being removed by court or by coup.
We have a lot of things to be thankful to our government for, such as strong administration and relatively low rates of corruption. However, our leaders also need to be thankful that we are an extremely cooperative and hardworking populace. Although we have many complaints. We do not create deadlocks in the streets, shut down airports or throw out the government when faced with growing income inequality and uncertainty for our livelihoods. Instead we try our best to eke out a living by working longer hours, or taking on more jobs. You don’t even need to leave the country to see, that this kind of tenacity and behavior is unique to its citizens and not to its government. Compare this to all the times we had a strike or a riot in the past 40 years and you can see that if our government were leading the Chinese, Indians, Vietnamese or Malaysians, the situation will be very much different.
We get that it is important to be foreigner friendly to attract investors and improve investor confidence. But where possible, we would like to ensure that policies that favors foreigners over locals be eliminated especially since it is the sons of Singapore and not the foreign population who will rise up to defend the country in times of need. If we claim that the reason why Singapore survived the separation from Malaysia is due to the efforts of the ruling party, then the reason why Singapore is the success story it is today must be due to the tenacity and virtues of its citizens.