Singapore To Singaporean: A Hollow Success? (Ep 1)

This year marks our bicentennial celebrations, 200 years since Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles landed in Singapore. To be honest, we have done remarkably well as a nation, if we were to compare ourselves to our immediate neighbours and some other countries.

While the Government has decided to consider this year as a cause of celebrations, I cannot help but think otherwise. My take is that the Nation's success is hypocrisy. It is a hollow success. What is success to me, then?  This sums up the Singapore dream/aspiration/promises - whatever you call it.
We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people, 
regardless of race, language or religion, 
to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality, 
so as to achieve, happiness, prosperity and progress for our Nation

When you recite the above, can you honestly believe the pledge to be true today? We are still very much a work in progress. I have listed a few points that I think our policymakers need to address. Some of these changes may sound radical and extreme, but they are necessary for the survival of this Nation's legacy and what she stands for.

I have just listed 5 that are on the top of my mind.

1A. Basic Human Rights for Foreign Workers

It is a shame that the people who literally built up Singapore are treated like modern-day slaves. They earn peanuts, live in deplorable conditions, are looked upon as lower class. Again, the state might argue that a lot has been done for workers in the past decade, Numerous new dormitories, recreation centres and facilities have been built for these workers.  

So i decided to google "Best Worker's Dormitories in Singapore to actually view how they look like. Let's just say that when I enlisted to National Service, my bunk conditions in Tekong in 2005 were way better than the leading standards set for foreign workers set today.

These recreational facilities are intended to keep these workers segregated from the general population. In my eyes, a blue-collar construction worker from India is no different than IT engineer from India, they are both foreign workers. Yet the lifestyle of two of them and the experience of Singapore will be worlds apart. So as a country, what are we actually discriminating against? Poverty? Lack of Education? 

There are still workers who are ill-treated/overworked by greedy employers.

Proposed Solution

Every new foreign worker, regardless of trade, must go through a one-week induction programme, where the worker will be given a basic understanding of his rights/life in Singapore. 

These workers are here to do jobs that Singaporeans do not want to perform and they should be appreciated for them. They should also be adequately insured by normal insurance policies and not be limited to just work injuries compensation act. In fact, they should be protected by the Union.

Every foreign worker that leaves the country must also attend an exit interview. The worker needs to declare that his wages have been settled and there are no problems.

I know the Minimum wage suggestion will be shot down, but they should have a minimum Human Rights level at least. With reference to a CNN article published in 2018, the basic starting salary for migrant workers from India and Bangladesh is less than $500.

Even a current day recruit in NSF gets a higher allowance. The NSF also gets free meals as well as free healthcare. Perhaps we should extend these incentives to the Government.

Their living space needs to have a minimum space requirement.


1B. Foreign Domestic Workers

If you think blue-collar foreign workers had it bad, domestic helpers, more popularly referred to as Maids, have it worse. They are literally 21st-century slaves. Their lives are totally controlled by their employers.

Maid abuse has become common. This is just sad. One in three households has a maid, apparently. When I grew up, it was a rare sight. Domestic helpers are usually hired when one has children at home and/or elderly folks living with them.

Proposed Solution

Having this maid culture is going to create a generation of youth who are brought up with a sense of entitlement. As crude as this may sound, if 2 adults have voluntarily decided to bring a life into this world, they should take responsibility for it. They may resort to domestic help who work for a fixed rate per hour. None of this live-in crap. 

They only reason that can justify a live-in help if the family needs a trained caregiver. That has to be remunerated on a different scale and the caregiver must get her own room at the minimum.

It is 2019 and we still have slavehood in Singapore. That has to stop. I look at my family who have moved to Australia from Singapore. A family of 6 with 4 children. Domestic chores become a responsibility.

2. Education System

We have definitely lost the plot here. Access to quality education should be available to every child that is a resident here. Its is the education system that can build a better generation of Singaporeans. 

Proposed Solution

We should revoke all these private/international schools. If a foreigner wants to relocate his children and family to Singapore, they should be adapting to our system. Of all people, they are the ones who need to learn the Singapore way.

Every child should have the right of admission to the nearest school possible. No volunteering by parents rubbish. Parents should just concentrate on upbringing.

Pre-school education should be standardised and subsidised. Pre-school educators should also undergo standard training and education. Privatisation of pre-school education should be phased out.  Every child regardless of the family's social-economic status must have access to the same quality education.

The objective of the first 6 years should be designed to find out where the child's natural talent is. Period. Scrap PSLE. The moment that is done, in a decade, we won't even know what is a good school. 

Secondary Education should be classified under subject Leads.  ( language / Math / Science / Technology / Sports / Arts with all the various sub-divisions from literary to performance to visual to even culinary )

For example, if Muthu at the end of his primary school journey ends up having the best aptittude for Language, he will go to the nearest school that has Languages as their lead module. He can still choose a few other modules out of interest etc. Children will change as they grow. That way, Muthu is not stuck with Languages even if he falls out of love with them.

That way, we can move our education system towards a skills-based one with knowledge still a base component. No one course should be considered superior to another. 

3. National service

I think this is a basic duty. This must continue. This is a right of passage. If females want to serve, they should have the right to volunteer.

Yet there is an unwritten discrimination in admission. It has long been coffeeshop talk, that if you are from a  certain race, you are less likely to be in certain forces. But to escape criticism, there will be a token minority who will be used as the poster boy to create an illusion that all races are welcome in the forces. I don't see any mainstream media coming out to address this if the was indeed a rumour.

The only thing that can be changed is the duration of the service. Your national service always starts off with the basic military training followed by Leadership training and then vocational training. Once you are done with training, you are effectively plugged into various units as a form of cheap labour.

That part of the journey is irrelevant and what Makes National Service regrettable.  Once you are done with training, you NSF journey should complete and your reservist cycle should be about refreshing your training. 

4.Healthcare System

I lost my father 7 months ago. One day, he had a common cold. The next day, he went to the A&E. 9 days later, he passed away at the hospital. Those 9 days were enough for me to have an opinion about the system.

The system needs to change.  Like education, I think education should be a fundamental right that a citizen needs. Personally, I am against the whole A -B -C class. The provision of healthcare has to be impeccable and everyone should be worthy of this healthcare.

In my Singapore, the Government hospitals should be on par or superior to private hospitals. My father had a heart attack and he was admitted in the CCU. When a bypass was suggested,  I started getting various advice from people. They suggested that I get my father upgraded to A2 so that I can elect to choose the surgeon. Apparently, there are some super surgeons in the department. 

Although I had purchased insurance for my father covering up to A class, the hospital required me to pay a $30k deposit. [Story For Another Day] to permit the upgrading. 

I can understand that in a surgical department, different surgeons will have different levels of skills and experience. Shouldn't the department decide which surgeon should be assigned based on the complexity of the case?

I dream of a system where the system is fair and just to everyone. A world-class healthcare system is not a privilege pegged to the financial status of a person, but the entitlement of every Singaporean

5. Singaporean Race

Racism is a serious problem. We usually downplay it. We are all racists in some way. We consciously fight against it. For example, while I have never discriminated against someone because of race expressly, I am guilty of casual racism or cracking racist jokes. Last night, a friend was extremely angry with an ex-colleague for sabotaging her.  That was all it should have been. But suddenly, his race, being Malay, became the main issue. I even wise-cracked, "Are there Malays in Finance?". As I said it, I knew it was wrong. My friend wanted to burn them all. We all knew we were all sprouting rubbish. 

Recently, there was an article about some awards given. My natural instinct was to check if there was an Indian recipient of the award. I did feel disgusted with myself almost immediately. Ever since the Nair siblings rap video made the headlines, I cannot help but think, if it is about time we start establishing the Singapore Race. 

I am a Singaporean Indian. What if I choose to remove "the Indian" as part of my identity? Will my life change?  I think not. Reason being, I strongly believe, I identify more with a Singaporean Chinese / Malay than another Indian from another country. We as Singaporeans, share certain traits. I also believe that the Singaporean identity is an amalgamation of the Chinese / Malay / indian and anything uniquely  Singaporean.

The Singaporean identity is one that takes on the various ethnic veins and is a rojak.

The above is just the tip of the iceberg. We shall uncover more issues in this weekly series.

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