Why I am a PR and still care about Singapore General Elections

I received several comments on my recent post “An open letter to the opposition parties in Singapore”. Every one said it in his own way but almost all raised the following points:

1. do your homework before you say something so presumptuous
2. why are you commenting when you can’t vote?
3. Why are you still a PR? (in the words of one, I owe Singaporeans an explanation)

I read the comments with mixed emotions: amusement, despair, surprise, pride. Amused at the accusations. Despair that some of the comments were clearly borned out of anti-foreigners sentiments boiling over. Surprised at the intense animosity in some of the comments made. Pride that Singaporeans are speaking up.

I absolutely agree that I ought to do my homework before demanding the opposition delivers. The letter was not meant to tell the opposition what to do. It was a personal plea for them to focus on the people, not politics. I get that talking about people’s lives is an extremely sensitive and potentially dangerous matter. Even as I wrote the words, I was fighting back a torrent of emotions while trying to put my point across. Judging by the comments I have received so far, I have failed to express myself the way I intended. That said, I take on all the suggestions to read the manifestos of the opposition parties, even though, as someone said, as a PR I have no right to comment.

Perhaps he is right but does that mean I don’t have the right to care?

For the first time in my life I am experiencing the anti-foreigner sentiment in Singapore directly. I realised that it seem not to matter that for all my life, I see myself and carried myself every bit as Singaporean as someone who holds Singapore citizenship. I am born, raised and educated in Singapore. I lived all except two years of my life in Singapore. Half of my family is in Singapore: my husband and his family, my sister and her children. The majority of my friends are in Singapore (even though they are not all Singaporeans). I have always related to myself as a Singaporean and I think many of my friends, Singapore or outside, relates to me as a Singaporean. I consider LKY the father of MY country.

In terms of citizenship, I hold a Malaysian passport, out of respect for my parents’ wishes. My Malaysian passport is a necessary evil in my life and in fact, is a pain in the butt when I travel. My parents are Malaysians though my family lived in Singapore for several decades. My Dad was in construction all his life and his sweat and blood toiled the Singapore soils. When they chose to retire in Malaysia as it was getting too expensive to stay in Singapore, I never thought of going with them. Singapore is my home.

As I always related to myself as a Singaporean and spent all my life here, I never felt the need to explain my existence in this country I call home. Nobody questioned the legitimacy of my life in Singapore. (Maybe some do but never said it in my face but that’s not important right now.)

Why am I still a PR despite all that personal connections I claim to have to Singapore? I think that Citizenship is an intensely personal choice. I have thought of applying for citizenship but didn’t get further than downloading the application forms from the ICA website. My Dad passed away last year. My Mum is still alive and God willing, live many more years in good health and spirits. She always harboured the dream that I will one day choose to live with her in Malaysia, buy a property, settle down. For that to happen, retaining my current citizenship is a matter of convenience.

My mother doesn’t nurture this dream because she is patriotic about Malaysia; she simply would like to have the opportunity to have her children close. Her children have been away from her most of our lives, me since I was 18 years old, my younger brother since he was a young adult, my elder sister settled in Singapore since 30 years ago. My remaining family is my link to Malaysia – my mother, my brother and his family, my cousins. I am not a Singaporean YET because I know the very act of not switching means something to my mum, no matter how ridiculous or irrational it might sound. And I made a decision that citizen of Malaysia or not, I will fulfill her dream by spending more quality time with her. This is not a function of citizenship. In fact I consider it irrelevant.

At the same time, I also hold the belief that my level of contribution to my home country is NOT a function of citizenship. I can’t show anyone any physical proof that I love Singapore – I can only offer you my life. When I am overseas, when asked, I proudly declare I am a Singaporean. It simply doesn’t occur for me to claim otherwise. It is only when someone sees my Malaysian passport that they quiz me on my citizenship. And I will patiently explain to them that I am born, bred and raised in Singapore.

The funny thing is, that answer – I am born, bred and raised in Singapore – is always good enough for people in foreign lands as proof of my Singaporean-ness. I am often asked to speak in Singlish, comment on PAP, LKY, the law that disallows chewing of bubble gum, etc, etc, etc. And I defend Singapore with my soul. By that I mean I always try to present Singapore in the best of light while still being truthful. I call a spade a spade. I share my own experience of living in Singapore. I share everything I love about Singapore despite its quirks and shortcomings.

I am not pretending to care about Singapore. I DO care. I will not be drawn into defending why I care or how I do it. I simply do. This is my home and that, is good enough for me to care. I am beginning to realise that what is very clear to me is not necessarily clear for others.

There is nothing to justify. I choose to care about Singapore and I am proud to say so.



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13 responses to “Why I am a PR and still care about Singapore General Elections

  1. Stan

    Read your open letter.
    PAP means really business when destroying different views.
    Just want to suggest you google Operation Spectrum & Operation Coldstore.

  2. matthew Shaw

    Nice article Jo. You absolutely have a right to comment – and care!

    First you pay taxes here, that gives you an interest. Second, you live here and have family in Sing, so taking part in a debate about the nation’s future is one way of caring about the future of your family. How could you do otherwise?

    Third, and most important of all, who says you can only comment on a country’s politics if you are a citizen in that country? If you follow this logic, then hundreds of millions of people around the world (as well as the black South Africans who were denied citizenship) should have stayed silent as Nelson Mandela sat in prison for 27 years, instead of raising their voices in protest.

  3. Since you call Singapore ‘home’, why not empower yourself with one electoral vote to ensure that you have a direct say over the govt/policies of this ‘home’? From what you have described, you have the makings of a good citizen: Someone who has deep roots here, and is not just here for the jobs while they last…

  4. NS Citizen

    I have seen many people like PR saying thing you said countless time.It doesn’t meant anything.Like your fellow Malaysian Mp wannabe?Big Great insults to us male NS men.Yeh I speak singlish,i born here,study here blah….I still hold on to my bolehland passport…ranting…I’m singaporean you kidding us

  5. Patrick

    actions speak louder than words.

    It is contradictory to say you love a place and yet, out of convenience, keep the passport of another. This is similiar to having a wife and a mistress, or a husband and a toy boy.

    The spouse would be for a place you can return to after all that fun. And the other would be the place you desire to be because of whatever reasons you may have.

    A wise man once said, there is no try, only do or do not. Either do something whole-heartedly without reservations or do not do it at all. Doing so, you would not find yourself playing the defensive card at the end of the day.

    I see your point of being born and bred on this land, but am disappointed that you would consider yourself Singaporean without going two feet in. (Still, in my eyes, your attitude is not worse than a certain Dr. J.)

  6. Bleeding Singaporean

    Malaysians growing up in Singapore like you have been considered part of Singapore since separation days. Nobody blinked an eye having Malaysian/PR colleagues in the 80s and 90s.

    However, the social, political and employment landscape has changed drastically in the last 10 years. From just being disadvantaged by having to do NS, S’pore citizens are now seeing housing, cost of living and employment opportunities severely challenged as a result of the current government relentless pursue of economic growth. It is not just a quiet trickle like in the 80s/90s but an entire tsunami of outsiders that is changing the facade of the local landscape.

    The challenge do not come from just Malaysian PR but a whole host of other nationalities that are not even culturally close to us. The local citizens are hurting and are questioning back to the government. Some of the more hurt or vocal local citizens are examining the people around them and unfortunately or otherwise, Malaysian PR who had always been a quiet but significant portion of the local population are being questioned as well to their loyalties.

    You have to understand where the anguish is coming from before you can even understand why you’re suffering from these undercurrents.

    I can take many pot-shots at your long article justifying why you did not take up citizenship. I shall not; not because I’m being kind but your justifications seem insignificant when you see the tremendous sacrifice that Singaporeans are being asked to absorb.

  7. Ivan

    You will find numerous anonymous trolls on the internet. You can never beat them. If you really like Singapore, you should just do your part. Become a citizen and vote for PAP.

  8. andy

    You are born here and yet you choose to be Malaysia.
    also, look at the situation that your parents are in – “When they chose to retire in Malaysia as it was getting too expensive to stay in Singapore” … and you know what?? after saying everything about the opposition and how great the PAP is… you can have the option to ditch us, leave singapore when we are stuck here with high cost of living, while you head back to malaysia, just like your parents.

    I know you have the option to disallow this remark to be read by others.. but I suggest you approved it and give me the opportunity of free speech and chance to contradict your outlook on our governement… or are you in line with that law of PaP too.. only allowing netizens to read what you want them to read?

  9. Russell

    Like many long-staying PRs I’ve come across, I believe when you support & justify unquestioningly all the PAP policies it is to overcompensate the fact you’ve been an overstayed guest who have given as well as benefitted from the system and opportunities it has accorded you. One wonders if the day after you trade in your PP for a SG pp, you would become more inclined to look harder at the same set of policies more critically. Afterall, you always have an exit plan B to return to your homeland after selling off your assets and live a more simpler lifestyle at choice. The millions of native singaporeans do not have such luxury. They are told they have only 1 choice – Team A or no Team at all.

    Search deeper and realize your own reasons why you’ve not surrender your citizenship. It’s more than meet the eyes.

  10. patriot

    I could provide u with lots of information on the truth of Sg Politics, but since GE is around the corner and u are not a citizen, I shall dedicate my time abd effort on sg citizens.

    Anyways, hope u will spend more time finding out more truths yourself if u ever become a citizen.

    Imo, S’pore, in the last 5-10 yrs, is getting way too ridiculous.
    If u look at the number of high caliber candidates standing up and joining oppositions instead of retiring, something serious and urgent probably needs to be done.


  11. Lee

    Ignore the kiasu comments.
    You have every right to put your mother/family first and to keep your options open. Your detractors would too, if only they could.
    Heck, all these desperados would leave Singapore and migrate to a better lifestyle if only they are welcome there. Those who can, have done so. Those who can’t, stay and bitch. Those who can, but stay, have it better, and they generally do not feel so threatened and desperate.
    You pay your taxes. You contribute to society here. You are not living off Singaporeans. If you weren’t contributing, your PR status would not have been approved.

  12. John

    As a born Singaporean, I am curious about the so-called “sufferings” that everyone is ranting about. Possible to give a list here? I mean only those problems that you experience personally, and not in general as they are reflecting others’ lives, not yours.

    I am not saying my life is perfect but I am contented with what I have now and pursue those that I don’t, by working hard. To what I consider as “sufferings” are what I’ve seen in my wife’s family in Penang where:

    – they do not have a TV
    – their toilet is made from metal sheets
    – they sleep on the floor
    – they do not have much choices for meals
    – their babies are not growing up from hygenic environment
    – they are not learning English when it is suppose to use for communicating with rest of the world
    – thefts are so common
    – u really need to search for a clinic, it’s not easy
    – and etc

  13. Ashwind

    People need to get some perspective.

    “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy

    Nope, THAT doesn’t apply anymore. Not unless you give me a carrot. No wait, maybe a couple of carrots. And if you want to take my expected carrot, I’ll kill you for it. And what do you mean you want to take away the cabbage? I’ve had cabbage since I was born, you can’t take it away, you CAN’T!

    Right. Just saying.

    How is this mob mentality different from the despised PAP-controlled media? Let’s all shout as loud as possible to shut out anything that we hate to see or hear. We’ll mob you until you leave or convert. And even when you convert, we’ll hound you because you are not born-and-bred here. F’ed if you do, F’ed if you don’t.

    There is a reason why there are so many ‘foreigners’ in the country. The official line is that it’s to cater to jobs locals don’t want. Critics said it’s to screw locals over. You know what? It’s neither. Wake up and smell the roses (and the shit just below). You want to blame anything, blame ‘globalization’.

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