Do PRs and New Citizens truly belong in Singapore?
Singapore's National Day theme this year is #OneNationTogether -- but does this also include Permanent Residents (PRs) and New Citizens?
As the nation is all set to celebrate it's 52nd year of independence, this year's theme has been revealed as #OneNationTogether which reminds everyone to stand together regardless of origin or background.
Although the main ethnic groups consist of Chinese, Malays, Indians and Eurasians, there are also many others who call this place home.
My family moved to Singapore back in 1994 and I have spent 1/3 of my life here, so some of my relatives back in Thailand jokingly say that my sister and I are probably more Singaporean than we are Thai.
I am married to a Singaporean and our child is a Singapore Citizen, however I am still a Permanent Resident and doubt I will be ever change my blue I.C for a pink one.
The reason for this is that although I have been living here for over 20 years and am more familiar with navigating my way around the sunny island than I am the streets of Phuket or Bangkok, a part of me is still unsure where exactly I belong.
As much as I love chicken rice, adore the Merlion, appreciate the sense of safety and security here, am pampered by the convenience and efficiency of how things work, and am quite well-versed in Singlish, I don't know whether some locals are willing to accept me as their fellow countrywoman.
Yet when I go back to Thailand to visit my cousins, I don't really fit in there either and am usually mistaken for a tourist.
Singapura, oh Singapura
But as I watched the red and white flags hanging from the HDB flat windows gently flap in the wind, and listened to two preschool children cheerfully singing "We Are Singapore" behind me on the SBS bus while I made my way to a heartland mall with my mixed race five-year-old daughter, I couldn't help but smile and secretly share in the joy and celebratory spirit of Singapore's 52nd year and independence.
I enthusiastically clapped and cheered my Drama Club students on as they performed a script I wrote and directed for their school's National Day event and a sense of pride overwhelmed me when everyone in the audience stood up to sing the national anthem together.
Looking around the school hall, it was close to impossible to figure out who was a Singaporean, a Permanent Resident, or a New Citizen -- and I doubt that the kids even let their schoolmates' backgrounds and origins affect their friendships.
Although I do not condone discrimination or hate speech of any kind, I can't help but feel a little embarrassed by the appalling behaviour of some newcomers to the country who choose to bring over their bad habits that are unacceptable here; blatantly break the law; make disparaging remarks about Singaporeans; and even incite ethnic tensions.
So it's no wonder that many locals are wary of anyone who isn't born and bred here, since there are many negative incidents which unfortunately gives the rest of us a bad name.
This is home, truly
To all Permanent Residents, New Citizens, and even expats:
If you say that your original home country is so much better than Singapore, then why did you even migrate here in the first place in search of a better life?
If you think the local customs and culture are strange and something to laugh at, remember that this is your new home now so you should get comfortable, and be more open-minded and willing to adapt.
If you feel you are more superior than the citizens of this land, perhaps it's high time you eat an upsized humble pie topped with a generous amount of chili padi.
It doesn't matter whether you travel to work via MRT, car or taxi; if you buy your groceries from the wet market, NTUC Fairprice or Cold Storage; or whether your child attends a neighbourhood school, a private school or an international school; or if you eat curry, noodles, or cheeseburgers.
Just remember that we are on the same little island and should all work harmoniously towards building #OneNationTogether.
Happy 52nd National Day Singapore.
Thank you for being my home.