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I refer to Vijay Kumar’s letter ‘The hidden side of Singapore’ and wish to add my own experiences of the so called beautiful Garden City.
For several years I did a part-time course at the Singapore Bible College, commuting to and fro between Johor Bahu and Singapore via the Woodlands Causeway. Had it not been because of God’s calling, I would have never stepped into Singapore despite living and working in Johor Baru for more than a decade.
For one, Singapore may be a first world country but the mentality of its people is anything but first world. Many Singaporeans are still very much in the third world.
One does not have to go very far to find an example for this. The Singapore Bible College itself is run as if they are still in the 1940s. They are so old fashioned in so many ways. A Mat Salleh lecturer once made a joke in class: “the dress code for the students in this college is Victorian” and he broke out laughing.
Management of the college is very much influenced by the Lee Kuan Yew’s style authoritarian – I talk you listen.
There are no grievances procedures for the students. Thus students are expected not to dispute the decisions of the management and being a bible college, they of course do not think it is biblical to sue the college.
Out of college, younger generations of Singaporeans not only do not have a proper understanding of the history between Malaysia and Singapore, they also do not have any great interest in it. For those who can afford it, they are only interested in migrating overseas. What happens to those who cannot afford it?
Rev Dr Joseph Ogawa, a psychologist missionary from America, often shares his testimony of how when he was first called by God to move to Singapore from America. His first reaction upon reaching Singapore was “are you sure there are any poor people here?”
Yes, there are many poor Singaporeans. A classmate from Singapore Bible College said his family was so poor, they could not afford to send him to school and he had to work as a carpet boy when he was 13 to supplement his family’s income. Later when he had kidney failure, he couldn’t get aid from dialysis centre like NKF because in Singapore if you have more than one terminal illness (he had two), you will be classified as a “no hope” case. In other words, “wait to die”. As such, you will not get aid from government hospitals.
Like many people who visit Singapore, we only see the skyscrapers, the immaculately kept public places, efficiency of the public transport system, the cars, the condos and the affluence of the Singapore lifestyle. But have you seen a one room flat (not a one bedroom flat) with a whole family living in it?
Besides, the normal HDB flats, the poorest of all can be found in abundance around Redhill. As part of my course practicum, I was sent as a volunteer to counsel the students in one of the secondary schools in Redhill. It turned out to be a cultural shock for me.
Have you seen Singaporeans who are so poor, they have to steal their neighbour’s water? Collecting cardboard boxes for a living? Have you heard of Singaporeans who can’t pay their monthly bills? Have you heard of Henderson Secondary School or do we only know Raffles Junior College? Seen the juvenile delinquents? Do you know what is the “in” thing for school girls these days in Singapore? It’s self mutilation by using razors and committing suicide. If you have not done it, you are not considered normal.
The school counsellor admits, this is the other side of Singapore the government do not want to brag about, neither do they want to highlight it. Singapore being a Confucius-led society is very concerned about the “face” and will never let you see anything but only “success”. That is why Singapore cannot afford to fail.