Friday 6 April 2012

PM Lee worried about 2 disturbing trends in Singapore

Singaporean v non-Singaporean divide
The Not In My Backyard syndrome
By Li Xueying, The Straits Times, 5 Apr 2012

PHNOM PENH: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday identified two worrying trends he sees in Singapore, warning that they stand in the way of a cohesive community.

One is a possible growing divide between Singaporeans and new arrivals, whether new citizens, permanent residents or foreign workers.

The other is people saying 'no' to having public facilities in their neighbourhoods, or what has been dubbed the Not In My Backyard, or Nimby, syndrome.

'If we take this self-centred approach to problems, we will not be able to do the best for ourselves as a community,' Mr Lee said, calling on Singaporeans to buck the trends.

The concerns he expressed, in an interview with the Singapore media after the two-day Asean Summit, came in the wake of a series of events that had sparked much debate.

A recent blog post by Chinese student Sun Xu, saying there were 'more dogs than humans' in Singapore, caused an uproar and led some Singaporeans to tar other foreigners with the same brush.

Mr Lee said Mr Sun should not have made the remark but urged Singaporeans to maintain 'a certain 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.'

Several residents of Toh Yi Drive and Woodlands had meanwhile raised a stir over the building of facilities for the elderly near their homes.

Mr Lee urged Singaporeans to think as a community - a trait that has put the country in good stead and brought it to where it is today - and not allow Nimby to become a general attitude, 'because then we will stymie ourselves'.

The Prime Minister highlighted these concerns as he dwelt on how Singaporeans have responded to changes the Government made after the watershed general election last May, when the People's Action Party (PAP) saw its vote share slip to a record low.

In its wake, Mr Lee wrought what he termed 'epochal' Cabinet changes, pledged a rethink of policies, and promised to work harder at engaging a new generation of more vocal Singaporeans.

Yesterday, in his first remarks on the reception to these changes, he said Singapore is in 'a new phase', and that the Government has changed its approach in many ways. 'I think it's a necessary change, I think it has been helpful.'

A 'certain stability' in Singaporeans' mood and expectations has been restored. 'But it will take some time more, and the balance between speaking out and working together is something which still needs to be worked upon.'

While the Government must do all it can to fulfil its responsibilities, he said Singaporeans too should - while speaking out - do their part to make Singapore succeed. Mr Lee also noted that the Government today has to consult, adjust, explain and consider what everyone wants. But at one point, it needs to decide what is best for the larger community.

'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.

'If at the end, we cannot move at all, you will not even have tomorrow's Singapore,' he said. '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.'

Mr Lee, who is the PAP's secretary- general, was asked about talk of by-elections being held beyond the Hougang seat, which fell vacant after Mr Yaw Shin Leong's expulsion from the Workers' Party.

Last April, Mr Lee was asked by Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao if he would use by-elections to bring in losing candidates of the GE. His reply then: he would not do so as elections were a serious matter.

Yesterday, he was asked if he held the same view. He replied with a smile: 'I have to see what exactly I told Zaobao, the circumstances then. It would depend on the situation.'

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