To be or not to be, living in Singapore?

I need hardly be apologetic for being Sri Lankans? There is a feeling that if we are like Singapore, we will be better off. Who knows?


by Victor Cherubim

( February 25, 2017, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) I am perfectly happy to be Sri Lankan, but many others think otherwise. I visited Raffles Hotel some 50 years ago and of course I was enamoured by the City State Singapore. It was different then and it is vastly different now.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking Singapore’s “strict, efficient, conservative, clean and etiquette conscious” reputation, is dull and disenchanting. It continues to be fascinating and a diverse nation. It is full of colour, contrasts and at the same time full of restriction that I would find difficult to adjust living there. Yet ask any Sri Lankan today, they all want a life in Singapore?

What makes Singapore, Singapore?

Most people have heard of the discipline of Lee Kuan Yew, GCMG, Companion of Honour, SPMJU, known by his initials LKY, the first Prime Minister of Singapore who governed for three decades. Today, there is power sharing with the Chinese, Malays, and Indian nationals taking turns. Many people are aware of Singapore being cosmopolitan, contemporary and commercial. At the same time people are aware that it is actually illegal to chew gum, or spit in or out in the street. You can be fined $150 for forgetting to flush in a public washroom.

Your freedom ends where the “public convenience” begins. Litter is frowned upon with a $1000 fine or be sentenced to community service. Propping up your feet on a railway seat or even a coffee table or even patting someone on the head is a quirk never tolerated. Walking down the road not clad properly or parading in your birthday suit on the beach could result in a fine up to $2000 or up to three months in jail.

More than that, the freedom of speech which we have in overabundance in Sri Lanka perhaps, as clearly demonstrated by the acts of BBS; or having heated, angry fist fights in our “paaralamentu” or the habit of casting aspersions against individuals with emotion, is all taboo in Singapore.

“No Gifts or presents please, we are Singaporeans” is the national motto of Singapore.

It could be near impossible for even a Wimalawansa to point his forefinger at someone anywhere, not even in jail, as it will mean punishment in Singapore. Any creativity in the use of graffiti or spray painting, or acts of vandalism, with intent to destroy or damage public or perhaps even private property, will lead to criminal punishment. Does this make you think again?

What then makes Sri Lanka want to be another Singapore?

Do we really want to be Singapore or do we want to be as wealthy as Singapore?

Do we really want to sacrifice all our freedoms to be another Singapore?

Do we really want to turn our population around to comprise 76% Chinese, 15% Malay and 6 % Indian to call ourselves Singaporeans?

We are happy where we belong?

Can anyone really compare Sri Lanka with Singapore? We are proud of our heritage, we are proud of our “freedoms” we have cherished for centuries. We are a large nation, not a City State, We have nearly five times the population of Singapore. We love our power cuts, we want to chew our beetle nut, and we want to worship with all the loudspeakers blaring out every Poya Day. This makes Sri Lanka what it is? This makes the world come to us. We believe in variety, we believe in human nature, we believe in looking after our stray dogs and cows on the road. Is that not what we were taught?

I need hardly be apologetic for being Sri Lankans? There is a feeling that if we are like Singapore, we will be better off. Who knows?

Our survival is not government, but our people?

Sri Lanka has gone through some very difficult times. We have been crippled through war and civil commotion, perhaps, not fully our own fault. Perhaps, we are deeply engrained to our recent past that prevents us from “being in the present”? Our greatest asset is our people.

On a comparative basis we are warned of the consequences, on the internet:

“If Sri Lanka were your home instead of Singapore your world”
“You would be 2.7 times likely to be unemployed
Die 8.03 years sooner
Be 9.3 times more likely to be murdered
Make 89.58 % less money
Be 3.6 times more likely to die in infancy
Consume 98.35 % less oil
Spend 96.35 % less money on health care
Use 94.74 % less electricity
Be 58.18% less likely to be in prison
Have 2 times more babies.”

We don’t have to go by the above statistics which may cramp our lifestyle. Our ingenuity is boundless; let us not sell ourselves for a life of Singapore which has seen its heyday? “Let a thousand flowers bloom again”, if only we think our people will be great again? Allow us the opportunity to be Sri Lanka again?

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