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Yes, they did it again. Dr Tony Tan, who has applied to become Singapore’s next president and is widely seen as the PAP’s candidate, told students last week that he favoured a Singaporeans First policy when it came to students getting places in our tertiary institutions.
Dr Tan is the latest in line to adopt what the Singapore Democrats have been saying for years – that Singaporeans should be given priority ahead of non-citizens when it comes to allocating our national resources.
In 2006, Prime Minister Lee Hsien launched a Singaporeans First programme in 2006 to give priority to Singaporeans in healthcare services.
Way back in the late 1990s, the SDP was already championing such an approach and had coined the term as an alternative to the PAP’s Foreign Talent Policy which we have said repeatedly is a guise to import cheap foreign labour en masse into Singapore.
(It seems to be open season as far as idea-pinching is concerned. Last week PAP MP Hri Kumar announced that he would organise townhall meetings with his residents at the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. The Singapore Democrats had stated in The SDP Promise that our MPs would organise such townhall meetings if elected.)
Dr Tan’s use of the term indicates an effort to co-opt the language of the SDP in the hope of assuaging Singaporeans’ anger and frustration towards the Government’s policy of giving foreigners priority when it comes to opportunities in higher education and employment.
But this begs the question: Why does any government need to announce that it favours its citizens over non-citizens? Are governments not elected to look after the interests of its citizens first over other nationalities? The fact that Mr Lee and Dr Tan feel compelled to mention Singaporeans First reveal the truth that underlies their immigration policy.
If the PM and former DPM really had the interest of Singaporeans at heart, they would have ensured that Singaporeans remain the first in line to benefit from their policies. If they had done so, and they had years to do it, there would have been no need to repeat the Singaporeans First idea.
In truth, however, the opposite has happened and they now find themselves having to re-assure the people that they are truly for Singaporeans first, assurances that, by the way, the people don’t believe. Which other governments have to keep repeating to their peoples that they come first?
A couple of days after Dr Tan made his statement, Mr Lee Kuan Yew repeated the Government’s defence of its immigration policy and gave no hint that there was any rethinking of the Foreign Talent Policy.
In higher education, Singaporeans have seen limited places and scholarships go to foreign students. This prompted Singapore Management University students to ask Dr Tan if he favoured Singaporeans first when the presidential hopeful gave a talk there last week. Dr Tan said he did, of course.
But the fact that local students would ask the question – repeatedly, according to the report – signals the angst that Singaporeans feel towards being discriminated against in their own country.
It’s easy for the PAP to adopt the SDP’s ideas and lingo. Walking the talk, however, is another matter. Still we take it in good spirit. After all, didn’t someone say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?