Singaporean PRs, Uni Fees, and Prejudiced Writers [long]

In the Voices section (Page 26) of weekendToday on February 16-17, 2008, there are two letter responses to “Different varsity fees unfair” (Feb 15).

The article can be found here: National Service, national varsities, obligations and privileges

The Feb 15 letter was by the mother of 3 Singaporean PR sons, who was concerned about the PRs having to pay 10% more than Singaporeans, who then suggested that since male PRs have to serve national service, they should have cheaper university fees (as compared to female PRs). A peculiar notion, given that the main purpose of the fee changes is to have a clearer differentiation between Singaporeans, PRs and foreigners.

J. supposes the mother’s logic runs along the lines of: the government takes care of the people who in turn give back to the government (in the way of taxes, and defence of the nation). If there’s a clear differentiation between the PRs and Singaporeans, why shouldn’t the PRs have shorter NS stints and pay fewer taxes, or if the NS stints and taxes are the same, why shouldn’t they pay similar tuition fees? It makes sense… except it doesn’t. No matter.

Back to the thing at hand. The first letter by Ng Lai Sze, a thirtysomething Singaporean “PRs have a different view” gets the point but then goes off on a discriminatory and irrelevant point. He starts off with:

‘Reading the letter, “Different varsity fees unfair” (Feb 15), has provided me with a new perspective on the emotional attachment of Permanent Residents (PR) to Singapore.’

He goes on to make good points about national service being a natoinal obligation and not an opportunity cost. Then he goes into the stupid:

‘Some male colleagues of mine have “complained” of having to do reservist duty and of having “lost out” in terms of career advancement to the first generation of PRs who did not have to do NS.

But these were “lunchtime grievances”, brought up and then just as quickly dropped, as we firmly believe that NS is a duty that should not be measured in monetary terms.”

So his compatriots, Singaporeans, can complain all they want because they all look at NS idealistically. Right… But just one letter sent by a one mother of male Singaporean PRs who wants the same university fees for her children as that of her sons’ future platoon mates instantly makes Ng Lai Sze see all PRs in the same way:

‘but I do see that there is a difference in the way Singaporeans (at least most of us) and PRs treat and see NS.”

Wait, not even “most of the PRs?” but just “PRs”? J., unlike Ng Lai Sze, cannot generalise to all Singaporeans, but it seems there’s some hostility towards Singapore PRs demonstrated by Ng Lai Sze. This hostility is unwarranted. Singaporeans and Singapore PRs alike think of national service as useful and required… and Singaporeans and Singapore PRs alike “chao-geng” to get out of army. Why the prejudiced viewpoints, Ng Lai Sze?

[Unrelated musing, not a good point] Since NS is a national obligation, why aren’t droves of Singaporean women, though they are unrequired to, signing up voluntarity for national service? Hmm. [End unrelated musing]

The stupid gets worse in the next letter “Best of both worlds” by Lim Boon Hee, where says:

‘I find it appalling that PRs should demand the same entitlements as Singapore citizens.

It is preposterous for the letter writer to argue for equal privileges in education when after two generations, some still choose not to become citizens.”

Wow. Wow. This person is actually horrified. He finds the very concept of arguing for equal privileges for Permanent Residents inconceivable. Apparently, he doesn’t realise that in most developed countries, Permanent Residents have the same rights and responsibilities as Citizens except for a things like more bureaucracy (like when buying land), inability to land jobs in sensitive areas (like nuclear weapon research), inability to vote, inability to become President, inability to get a passport (Singaporean passports are well recognised!).

He then goes on to smear PRs who choose not to become naturalised citizens with an archaic viewpoint:

‘It displays an attitude that wants the best of both worlds – keeping ” a leg on each of two boats” so as to beat a hasty retreat should Singapore sink’

Note that this follows “after two generations” so it probably doesn’t refer to citizens from other countries who arrive in Singapore to work but people born here and become PRs. Does anyone truly think that people are opting to be PRs instead of citizens because they want to bail “should Singapore sink”. Say… a chinese Malaysian citizen Singapore PR thinks that should Singapore sink, he’ll just head across the courseway, hence his child should remain Singapore PR? That’s a nice-sounding notion that’s ridiculous to anyone who actually thinks.

Some do so to give the child a choice to choose for himself. Here’s what happens: child is a PR. He goes through school and everything largely the same as a citizen (except for paying primary school fees which citizens don’t have to). He gets called up for NS largely the same as a citizen. After NS, he finds that he identifies more with this country than say… Malaysia. He becomes a citizen. See? The letter by Lim Boon Hee tells more about his skewed viewpoints than about Singapore PRs.


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