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

翻开2月18日的《联合早报》,在刘程强的名字跃入眼帘之前,大标题《建设一个人丁兴旺、可持续的新加坡》已深深打动了我。这是任何一个新加坡人都希望看到的美好愿景。我急切地读完全文,可惜没读到一点具体内容,让人颇感文不对题。我多么希望刘先生能就此提出一些更具体的东西。毕竟这关系到新加坡的未来,我们大家的未来。

刘先生在文章中指我“想致工人党于死地”,只因我用了“煽动”二字。我的原话是“煽动排外不是爱国。按出生地划分公民,不会加强国民认同与凝聚力。”这是在指控“煽动”罪吗?只是在表达观点而已吧。用到“煽动”二字就是想致工人党于死地?刘先生是在演示什么叫“危言耸听”吗?

我尊重刘先生的逻辑。他之所以有这样的恐惧,显然不是我一个新公民能造成的。他在文章中回顾了过去、难以抹灭的恐惧感,他称之为“白色恐怖”。我对刘先生所说的这段历史,并非一无所知。

但世界在进步,历史在发展。新加坡也走过一个又一个“分水岭”。在工人党接连打胜多场选战后,作为国会第一大反对党,可说是气势如虹。今时今日,我写一篇批评工人党和刘程强的文章,都会引来朋友们的关切:“不会惹上麻烦吧?”

原本我想,他们是不是有点“危言耸听”了。现在才知道,他们的担心不是没有道理。刘先生把我定性为“想致工人党于死地”,应该是在煽动支持者对我的不满。可是这场讨论,有必要用这种煽动悲情的手段吗?

糟糕!我又用到了“煽动”二字,不会换来更多帽子吧?好在今天的新加坡,已是一个健全的民主与法治社会。我应该不必担心这种“危言耸听”才是。对刘先生当年从政的勇气,坦白说我是非常钦佩的。但刘先生是不是也该走出悲情,用今天的民主思维来说话?这样讨论问题或许更理性些。而且我相信,走出悲情,才能拥抱更美好的未来。

我赞赏工人党在上届大选提出“第一世界国会”的口号,可是对工人党最近在国会的表现,我很难再竖起大拇指。原因我在《刘程强在说什么?》一文中已经提到很多了。比如,工人党主张冻结外劳,是不是一个极端方案?为什么要不顾一切反对外来人口?经济增长真的不重要吗?工人党主张进一步调低经济增长,一面又主张提高工资,他们是否意识到这两者之间的矛盾呢?

谁在断章取义?

还有最关键的“战后婴儿潮”问题。从他们主张增加居民人口的就业参与率,提出所谓每年挖掘多1%的本地劳动力,可以看出他们对“战后婴儿潮”问题完全失忆,没有意识到整百万新加坡人将在未来十多年内达到退休年龄。新加坡正面对人口迅速老化的危机!对这些问题,刘先生为什么在文章中避而不谈?难道喊多几句漂亮口号,对真正的问题视而不见,我们就会有更美好的未来?

刘先生的文章中还有一处自相矛盾。前面才说完“讨论的对象是新加坡公民,不是非公民的外劳和女佣”,后面在反驳我指出新公民人口每年增长其实不到1%时,又强调“别忘了,我们不单须要磨合成为公民的新公民,也必须面对还未成为公民的外来人民”。请问,他的讨论对象到底包括不包括外劳和女佣?

对我国的移民和外劳政策,刘先生应该非常了解。外劳和女佣在我国工作,不可以带家眷、不可以与本地人通婚、如果女性一旦怀孕会被立刻遣返,他们绝大多数没有资格申请成为永久居民,因此受工作准证限制,不可能长期在我国工作。对于这样的人口,有必要像新公民那样“磨合”吗?有必要担心他们稀释新加坡人核心吗?

当然刘先生一定会说,他担心的不是这些人口,而是新公民。可人口白皮书里说得清楚,未来每年批准新公民1万5000至2万5000人,还不到我国公民总数的1%(严格来说是0.46%-0.76%)。刘先生问我数字是怎么来的?我倒被问得一头雾水。难道我们不是在谈人口白皮书?

至于刘先生否认分化新加坡人。的确,他说过:应该对获得公民权的新公民一视同仁。同时他又说:然而要记住,这些都是人,人的价值观、人生观、世界观和生活的习惯都因环境、国情和习俗的不同而有异,需要时间磨合,也需要适当的磨合环境。接着他又说:新加坡没有磨合新移民的条件。如果把这三句话读完整,他是在说新公民与土生公民都一样?还是在说他们永远不可能一样呢?

刘先生对自己说过的话,怎么也会断章取义呢?后面关键那句怎么就不提了?他说:“大多数新加坡人的分析能力是很强的,也懂得分辨是非曲直。”对此,我举双手赞成。

孙建民先生的文章《什么是新加坡的核心人口?》,有一点说得非常好:真正的新加坡核心包括土生公民、包括所有归化的新公民、还有那些跟我们拥有相同信念和价值观,并在新加坡工作生活多年,已融入和正在融入本地社会的永久居民。

我想,刘先生如果忘记了一个传统的移民社会应有怎样的胸怀,不妨参考一下孙先生的说法。何必非要把新公民视为威胁、视为对新加坡人核心的稀释呢?他们为什么不能是对新加坡人核心的加强?

至于孙先生说我把时间搞混了,误以为刘议员是在反对今天的新移民。我看他是误会了。我反对的是刘程强发言的逻辑,与时间是2013年还是2030年关系不大。如果刘议员认为,未来的新公民是对新加坡人核心的稀释,那为什么现在的新公民就不是?逻辑其实是一样的。

孙先生赞同“反移民是条不归路”,对此我非常欣慰。不过对孙先生认定,刘议员和工人党不是在反对移民,我却没什么信心

repost from Fabrications About The PAP 

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