Monday, May 05, 2014

Get it right for integration of Foreigners!

There was a question put up by a human rights social activist on what we are trying to achieve by raising the red flag and complain to the authorities about Filipino and Mexican shops putting up their national flags on their signage. Well, that human rights social activist has admitted that it is indeed against our law, the National Emblems Act.

I find it weird for the activist to make that remark and I was trying to understand on what angle or grounds he is trying to see from. Is he trying to say just because this illegal act is done by foreigners, we should just close both eyes and let it be? Is he trying to say that because they are foreigners and may be ignorant of such law, that is why we should excuse them? Then the logic would extend to other general rules and laws. Foreigners will be excused from jay walking, littering, spitting, urinating or poohing in public etc etc because it was their unique culture back home and they didn't know how drastic the law we have in Singapore against all these!?

My dear activists, the sole purpose, is not about racism as you are so quick to label it, but rather to maintain the basic RULE of LAW on this little tiny island. If the foreigners aren't aware of our law here at first, after actions have been taken, they will sure know it from now on. Ignorance, is not a good excuse for committing an illegal act.

You either believe in Rule of Law or you don't and before you talk about human rights, you must also understand Rule of Law is the fundamental basis of maintaining human rights as well.

One of the main problems with "integration" between Foreigners and Singapore is the mismatch of "social practices". If we frown upon their "social practices" which are really unacceptable, would it be considered as "Xenophobic" or "Racist"? The recent big hoohaa between Hong Kongers vs Mainland Chinese have provided an exceptional case study.

On numerous occasions, Mainland Chinese have been caught poohing and peeing openly in public places. It is unhygienic and annoying to Hong Kongers to the extend that Hong Kongers start to take photos of such disgusting acts and put them up on the internet. The Mainlanders fought back, complaining that it is "common" or a "non issue" because public toilets are scarce in Hong Kong. In fact, that is what they do in China as well, hinting that it is an acceptable social norm or practices to them in China and Hong Kongers are just making a fuss over a trivial mater.

The situation exploded, of course. Now the question is, are Hong Kongers really "Xenophobic" in this instance? IMHO, not at all.

The tension arises because of difference in cultural social understanding of what is and what is not acceptable. But at the end of the day, it is Hong Kong where the act has been committed and Hong Kongers should have the last say. When you are in Rome, do as Romans do. You will have to follow the custom of the society or place where you stay or visit and respect the laws and social norms, definitely not the other way round! If you, as a foreigner, try to assert yourself, your way of life, your mentality and cultural-social practices in the host country, you will definitely become a person who will not be welcome there. What gives you the right to go into other people's land and try to do it your way? Mess it up the law and order of the society which you are just a guest there?

Thus, in my view, the only way to prevent further frictions and unnecessary unhappiness and deterrence to REAL Integration, we will have to exert and enforce our cultural-social norms and it is for foreigners to integrate into such social order instead of the other way round.

One of the important Enforcement of law and order fairly and clearly to foreigners and Singaporeans alike, will set the key tone to whole social norm which is acceptable to Singaporeans. We cannot become lax just because they are foreigners with the excuse that they do no know the law. If so, the social tension between the citizens and foreigners will aggravate because it would be seen as double standards which lack rule of law. Secondly, the persistence infringement of social norm or contravene of our law will eventually create a deeply imprinted generalized BAD perception of these foreigners and it will become a time bomb for future explosion.

Thus, back to the Human Rights Activist who questioned the purpose of me raising the red flag on Filipino and Mexican shops which put up their national flags which clearly contravene our law, in which he too admitted this fact. Contrary to what he thinks that this is some dubious act of racism, it is actually an attempt to nip the bud of the problem right at the heart of it. If these shops were allowed to carry on their ways, citizens will start to wonder why foreigners have special privileges to break the law or disrupt the social norm. Such development will definitely be most unhealthy to our nation and society. Rule of law is the simplest and effective way of maintaining social standards and stability.

If you do not want citizens to differentiate or discriminate foreigners, you have to get the fundamentals right: it is for the foreigners to respect our social norms, abide by our laws and stop doing things that is culturally annoying to Singaporeans. On top of that, respect our country and sovereignty. Everybody likes to have good and well behaved guests in their house.

If Human Rights Activists cannot get this right, I do not think they can get very far in their pursue of their human rights cause.

Goh Meng Seng

P.S. I have just seen this quote on a book:

"If and when foreigners contravene any Laws, they cannot expect or claim special privilege or exemptions on the basis of their nationality or states as foreigner... while some might regard graffiti as a stimulating an liberating activity that adds colour, spice and variety to a staid environment, many more in Singapore think otherwise." - Justice V.K. Rajah (2010)

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