Reply to Low Thia Khiang.


Lee Ye Ming’s reply to Low Thia Khiang. English Translation by B.Lee. Original Mandarin text follows.

I was deeply touched when I saw the headline “Building A Flourishing Population and A Sustainable Singapore” with Low Tia Khiang’s name clearly in sight in February 18 “Lianhe Zaobao”. Any Singaporean would love to see a bright vision. I eagerly read the full text, but unfortunately I could not find any specific proposal in the content. The content clearly did not live up to the headline. How I wish Mr Low would be putting forward something concrete proposals. After all, this Population White Paper affects the future of Singapore, our future.

I respect Mr Low’s logic. The reason why he has such fear obviously could not be due to me, who is just one new citizen. In fact, he recalled in his article his past where he had indelible fear, a fear which he called the “White Terror”. I am not ignorant of the period of history Mr. Low mentioned. But the world has since progressed, and new history is being written. Singapore has undergone one “watershed” after another. Having won a series of election campaign, and becoming the largest opposition in the Parliament, the Workers’ Party is now the darling of the day.

Many concerned friends have even asked me, “Would you get into any trouble?” for me to write something criticising the Workers’ Party and Low TK’s article at this point in time. I originally wondered if my friends were unnecessarily “frightened”. But now I realised their concern is not without basis. For Mr. Low to characterise me as “wanting to cause the Workers Party to die/death”, I suspect he is trying to incite discontentment among his supporters on me. Does he need to resort to inciting tragic, on this discussion between us? 

Oh no! I used the word “incite” again, would this invite more ‘spanners’ thrown at my direction? Fortunately in today’s Singapore, we have a healthy democratic society based on the rule of law. I should not have to worry about such “alarmist”. Frankly, I was very admirable of Mr Low’s courage in entering politics under the difficult circumstances in those days. But shouldn’t Mr Low leave his grief behind, and start debating issues based on current democratic line of thoughts? Only then perhaps the issues could be discussed in a more rational way. And I believe only by leaving one’s grief behind, one can then embrace a better future.

I like the slogan, “First World Parliament” adopted by the Workers’ Party in the last general election. But from their recent (shoddy) performance in the Parliament, I can no longer give a thumbs-up to them, for reasons I have mentioned in my previous article. For example, just to name a few, the Workers’ Party advocated a complete freeze on foreign workers, is this not an extreme solution? Why is there a need to go all out to oppose migrants? Is economic growth really that unimportant? The Workers’ Party on one hand advocates a further reduction in economic growth, yet on the other hand advocates higher wages; are they not aware of the contradiction between the two?

Who is taking things out of context?

And now to the most critical problem of “post-war baby boom”. The Workers’ Party advocates to increase the labour force participation rate of the resident population by 1% annually. From this, one can see its complete amnesia with regards to the problem of having nearly 1 million of baby boomers entering into silver age in the next 10 over years. Singapore is clearly facing a rapidly aging population crisis, but why did Mr Low avoid addressing this crisis in his rebuttal article? Would we have a better future by turning a blind eye to the real problem and merely shouting a few beautiful slogans and nice sound-bites?

Mr Low also contradicted himself in his rebuttal article. At the front part of his article, he said, “the subject of the discussion is Singapore citizen, not foreign workers and maids”. But towards the end of his rebuttal later, where he counter-attacked my point that the annual growth rate of new citizen population is in fact lower than 1% annually, he stressed, “Do not forget, not only do we need to integrate the new citizens into our fold, we also have to face those foreigner work force who have yet to become citizens.” So, does he want to include foreign workers and maids in his discussion or not?

Mr Low should be very familiar with our immigration and foreign labour policies. He should know that foreign workers and maids working here cannot bring their families here, cannot intermarry with our locals, and any female workers who became pregnant would have to be immediately repatriated. Most of them are not eligible to apply to become a permanent resident, and due to work permit restrictions, it is unlikely they will work long-term in our country. For this group of people, is it necessary to “integrate” them with us like those new citizens? Do we really need to worry if this group of people dilutes the Singaporean core?

Of course I expect Mr Low to say he was not worried about this group of people, but rather, about the new citizens. But the Population White Paper stated clearly that the plan is to approve only 15,000 to 25,000 new citizens annually, which is less than 1% of the total number of our citizens (strictly speaking, 0.46% -0.76%). I am confused why Mr Low needed to question me how did I derive the 1% figure. Are we not talking about the Population White Paper?

As for Mr Low’s denial that he is trying to classify/divide Singaporeans into those local born and bred and those who are not, yes,

  • he indeed said, “It should be equal treatment for the new citizens who obtained citizenship.”
  • And at the same time, he added, “Let’s remember, however, that these (new citizens) are all human, with differing values, outlook of life, outlook of the world and living habits, due to the different environment, national conditions (situation) and customs. They would need not only time to adapt and integrate, but also the appropriate environment to do so.”
  • Yet, crucially, he also added, “Singapore does not have the conditions to allow the new immigrants to be integrated into our fold.”

If one is to read these three sentences conjunctionally,

  • is he really saying that the new citizen and native (local born and bred) citizen are “the same”?
  • Or is he actually saying, “they can never be the same”?

How could Mr Low take what he said in his own article out of context?

Why he stopped short of mentioning in his rebuttal article the crucial third sentence (“Singapore does not have the conditions to allow the new immigrants to be integrated into our fold.”)?

Well, I fully agree with Mr Low when he said, “Most Singaporeans have very strong analytical ability, and are able to distinguish between what is right and what is not.”

Mr Sun Jianmin in his article “What is Singaporean Core Population?” brought up a very good point:

that the real Singaporean core must include native (local born and bred) citizens, naturalised citizens, and those permanent residents – who have worked many years here, are well integrated with our local community and shared the same beliefs and values with us.

In case Mr Low has forgotten that a traditional immigrant society like us should have an open heart, he might wish to refer to Mr Sun’s article. Why is there a need for Mr Low to see the new citizens as a threat to diluting the Singaporean core? Why can’t the new citizens strengthen the Singaporean core?

While I am very pleased Mr Sun agreed with me that “anti-immigrant is a road of no return”, I have my doubt in Mr Sun’s firm assessment that Mr Low and his Workers’ Party are not anti-immigrant.

观点碰撞 – 李叶明



















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