Many years ago, in history class, I learned of a possible etymology of the word ‘Singapore – ‘singhha’ meaning stopover and ‘pura’ meaning city – which is quite befitting for the name of a country that relies so heavily on its port.
Recently, I’ve been coming across a series of articles that made me think about what the idea behind Singapore is:
Seah Chiang Nee’s ‘A people under restructure‘:
WHILE Singapore is busy attracting talents from abroad, some 4,500 of its own better-educated citizens may be heading for New Zealand.
This is the other side of the immigration coin that is costing Singapore more dearly in skill losses than larger nations that are losing talents to it.
An older article by Seah Chiang Nee, ‘Will Singaporeans fight‘:
With the country facing economic hardship and terrorist bombing threats, how many will go soft and leave it for “greener” and “less dangerous” places?
The question was raised by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in his National Day speech . When the chips were down, Goh asked, would they stay to fight for the nation or take flight at the first sign of trouble. “Are you a quitter or a stayer?”
The benefits don’t stop there. A company with a culture of quitting does not have ex-employees; they have alumni. This is far more than a semantic distinction. An alumni relationship is positive; something that people can take pride in; and one that keeps the door open for further opportunities on both ends. Let’s face it; we’re already curious about our former workplaces and try to keep up through former coworkers. It’d be that much easier if the company facilitated this in some manner.
The alumni relationship also helps with the flow of new personnel. While ex-employees are be hesitant to recommend the company they “broke up” with, alumni will champion it to colleagues in need of similar experience. Furthermore, there’s no sense of defeat when an alumni returns – armed with experiences from other organizations – for another tenure.
This post by Lucian has been weighing on my mind:
Singapore needs to be a well-articulated idea.
Maybe your name really decides your destiny.
Maybe Singapore is destined to be the stopover city.
Last night when I was at Clarke Quay waiting by the fountain for some friends, a young Thai couple asked me to take a photo for them. The joy on their faces just being able to share a moment in my country lent a little to the answer I’m going to attempt for Lucian’s question – What is the idea behind Singapore?
Singapore was, is, and will always be a stopover city. A place where people seeking a better life can come and create that better life. A place where most will lay down their roots, a place where many will pass through, seeking their better life elsewhere. For those who leave, it is never ‘goodbye’ but ‘see you later’. Through those who wander off, the seeds of the Singaporean idea, that there can be a place where one can have that desired life regardless of race, language or religion, is carried – there is separation but never abandonment. For those born here, this chance to freely create the better life by merit is our birthright, one fought for with sweat, tears and blood by those who came before. It is this birthright that we defend with our National Service. It is this birthright that we share freely, to those who gather here, with no motive for anything in return. As we have been blessed, so through us, blessings may pass.
1. It seems more Singaporeans are emigrating. But how many of these are born and raised in Singapore. Or is this higher number a consequence of more people immigrating to Singapore and then using Singapore as a stepping stone to other better places.
2. In my mind, there is no question that Singapore should be a place that welcomes foreigners – from the highly paid talents that strut around Shenton Way to the construction workers who make a lot of what we take for granted. This question however gets confused with the other one – how to accommodate them. We, as citizens, can and should take issue with our government for their plans to accommodate the foreigners but we should be mindful never to get caught up in xenophobia.