Is Singapore, our friend or foe?

The greatest fear of the Singapore government is a Malaysia that is better governed and less corrupt. The extraordinary events in Malaysia over the past few years, plus the courageous stand of her citizens in GE-14, has been closely monitored from across the causeway.

If the infection spreads, the pent up feelings of Singaporeans may be unleashed. The two nations have a shared history.

Singaporeans look up to Malaysia

Singapore may be a first world nation, but when it comes to an outpouring of feelings, the Singaporeans still look up to their cousins in Malaysia.   

Dictatorship could be described as the new democracy in our neck of the woods; the former disgraced PM, Umno Baru’s Najib Abdul Razak, together with the Singaporean premier, Lee Hsien Loong, have been rattled by the ‘Mahathir effect’ in GE-14.

Not since independence has Malaysia been rocked by a political force which has captured the rakyat’s sense of frustration at the nation’s archaic order.

The older generation are weary of the wanton waste of resources, the lack of discipline shown by its leaders and the disintegration of society. The young yearn for a new order where their contributions are acknowledged, where everyone is treated as equals and where they are rewarded for hard work, rather than their connections.

Anwar could not accomplish what Mahathir has achieved on 9 May, when he articulated the needs of the nation, and galvanised the rakyat into action.

In early May 2013,  some Malaysians residing in Singapore were cautioned by the Singapore police for reminding Malaysians to return home to vote.

A few days later, some were arrested in Merlion Park for protesting about the fraud perpetrated during GE-13. The Singaporean government does not like its citizens to have a mind of their own.

At the time, Najib wanted Malaysia to be “the best democracy in the world”, but the hallmarks of his version of democracy were cheating, intimidation and bribery. In Singapore, the authorities also intimidate and take legal action against anyone who dares besmirch the characters of its leaders.

In Malaysia, insecure Malays reject the DAP because of the implied threat that Malaysia will be swallowed up by Singapore. Their fears are enhanced by some Chinese Malaysians, who look up to an idealised version of Singapore. Singapore absorbed many of them into learning institutions, gave them scholarships and jobs. These Malaysians forget that the price paid for Singapore’s transformation into a first world nation has been high.

‘Soulless inhabitants’

What use are towers that reach up to the sky when deep down, its inhabitants lack a soul?  Children suffer from mental health issues because of academic pressures. Adults complain of a poor work-life balance. Many Singaporeans are unhappy and a number of them have migrated.

When Anwar held a talk at the London School of Economics in 2010, the event was oversubscribed and several hundred participants were accommodated in an adjoining lecture theatre to listen to him via video link.

The audience were mainly young adults in their early twenties, but the most amazing thing, was that a sizeable proportion were Singaporeans.

Many people disagreed with me, when in an article, I mentioned the possibility that Singapore feared a strong, successful and less corrupt Malaysia, and that the People’s Action Party (PAP) would prefer Umno-Baru to govern Malaysia, rather than the Opposition coalition. 

Without a doubt, Singapore is clean, its public transport is efficient, the entertainment and the promotion of the arts is good, English is widely spoken, it is safe, local and international cuisines are easily available, and the island state is an international transport hub.

In many ways, Singapore is like Malaysia. Both have state-controlled media, its armed forces are dominated by one race, and they are ruled by autocratic governments. The cost of living is high, housing and car ownership are expensive.

Both Malaysia’s Umno Baru government and the Singapore PAP have alienated themselves from the population.

Although change is within the grasp of the ordinary Malaysian, change in the near future is only a dream for many Singaporeans. Wasn’t it Lee Kuan Yew ( left ) who once said, “…I spent a whole lifetime building this, and as long as I am in charge, nobody is going to knock it down.”

Like Dr Mahathir Mohamad, will Lee ever relinquish his hold on the island?

In April 2013, the  Global Witness exposé highlighted the flip-side of the financial world of Singapore. It appears that dodgy South-East Asian governments and drug barons find Singapore a convenient place to launder money.

To add to Singapore’s woes, there are the worldwide syndicated football rigging and sex scandals which have rocked the world.

Only the naive would think that corruption does not exist in Singapore – they are simply better at concealing their underhanded practices. An acquaintance who handled the Malaysian side of business for a Singapore firm, alleged that he was given a sizeable allocation to sweeten any business deals in Malaysia.

The Singaporeans like to project a clean image, but it is the Malaysians who gets the bad  reputation.

The government of Singapore is concerned by the moral awakening in their people, but they fear most the economic repercussions if Umno-Baru were to be replaced.

If the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration gave Malaysians meritocracy, and excellent learning institutions were open to all, the majority of Malaysians would not need to go to Singapore to study.

No more brain drain?

There are tales of children being woken up at 4am to travel to Singapore to go to school because their parents could not enrol them in a local Malaysian school. Bright children are deprived of scholarships because they belong to the wrong race or religion. Families are broken up when some family members moved to Singapore for employment.

Singapore has every right to be scared if Umno-Baru were oustde; this happened on 10 May.

The brain drain would stop. If working conditions in Malaysia were improved, the daily migration of workers to Singapore would be stemmed and Singapore might suffer a shortage of workers. If corruption was reduced, Malaysia would attract more foreign investment.

The feeling of xenophobia is high in Singapore, and is mostly directed at the Chinese from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Singaporeans consider them to be loud, brash, arrogant and lacking in culture. They are wary of their government’s desire to attract more people from the PRC to increase the dwindling population, to take care of the elderly and to bolster the economy.

The recent wave of xenophobia in Malaysia was generated by Umno-Baru because it gave away identity cards (ICs) to foreigners – like the Filipinos and Indonesians – in exchange for votes to stay in power.

Leaders in Umno-Baru have lost valuable Malaysian land to the Singaporeans, such as the Pedra Banca island off Johor and the land swap deal involving Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) land in Singapore.

To increase their land mass, Singaporeans have obtained sand from Malaysia, through legal and illegal means. The buying power of the Singapore currency means that they can buy property cheaply in Malaysia and in some places, have priced the locals out of the housing market.   

In Ipoh, Singaporeans have built skyscrapers beside limestone hills and many locals fear that this has set a precedent and before long, the natural beauty of Ipoh will be marred forever. The previous Perak Umno-Baru administration seemed oblivious to the concerns of the locals.

A clean and efficient government can improve our economy, but Umno-Baru will continue to hamper our progress.

Without cronyism and corruption, Malaysia will emerge a stronger, richer nation, no longer the poor relation of Singapore.

Rebuilding Malaysia


  • Jimmy Arokia (nom de plume) says:

    Postscript to the hockey boys and girls:
    The mens team finished with a silver medal after leading 5 – 2 with 13 minutes to go and went on to lose the penalty shoot-out to Japan 3 – 1. Absolutely ridiculous and tak pakai otak kesemua pasukan dan jurulatih.
    The women team finished fifth and therefore did not medalled. The whole Malaysian program should get back to the basics like a vibrant local league in each of the states, discard the High Performance Director who is yesterday’s man, do not promise a podium finish before embarking to a tournament to ease the pressure on the team performance. Do not have the ridiculous situation of a National League where the majority of the players are imports. Adopt modern sports performance techniques and equipment and basic strength and conditioning exercises to be performed at players own discretion and pace. Maybe just maybe the performance can improve. Oh, not forgetting to introduce diversity into the game.

  • Jimmy Arokia (nom de plume) says:

    The truth of the matter is that Singaporeans are transplanted Malaysians. If you can get your hands to read LKY autobiography or biography by a plethora of writers, you will know that one of the reasons is due to the population at that time of separation. If the population of Singapore were to be included in Malaysia, the Chinese will be in the majority, even now. It would have been unpalatable at any point in time. After all in a democracy majority rules.

    The incarceration of great minds like Chai Tye Poh (aka the Nelson Mandela of Asia) on Sentosa Island, Dr. Goh Soo Kai and nearly succeeded with Tan Wah Piow, goes to show LKY is nothing but a tyrant and an autocrat. I always wonder if his idea of governance is so superior, why did he have to do what he did? It really is senseless and stupid. He should have co-opted these brilliant minds to assist him but instead he set out to destroy them.

    Those of you who viewed the travel blogs of various Mat Sallehs on YouTube, will see that we, in Malaysia, are truly blessed. We have the best food in the world, a fusion of the three dominant races and from that you can see how integrated we are as a people. From char kway teow to nasi lemak, the influences of the three races can all be gleaned in the dishes. Every time I introduced my Mat Salleh friends or friends from around the world, they are amazed at how good the food is and was surprised by the influences.

    I am also aware of the 28,000 predominantly British and Japanese retirees living in Malaysia under the Malaysia as a Second Home scheme. They cannot sing our praises any higher, though it has become a bit on the hot side for me. They are amazed at the cost of living, health services, shopping and most of all the friendliness of the people. A Canadian lady whose two children were born in Malaysia told me that her children were always very proud to announce to all and sundry that they are born in Malaysia and are Malaysians. She said she always shed a tear whenever the day coincide with Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and Deepavali, as it reminded her of the time spent living in Malaysia, when her pilot husband lived here. She hankers to come and live there.

    So we do not have to look over the fence and envy any nation as we are on the path to be the best nation on earth. All we need now is for both the hockey teams to win their respective gold medals at the Jakarta/Palembang Asian Games and qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.

    Instead of Majulah Singapura, it is Majulah Malaysia.

    • Amazonian says:

      Thank you so much for writing this inspiring comment. It is well written to impose that yes we do not need to see over the fence, or the grass not necessarily greener on the other side.Instead,we look upon ourselves and reflect to become a better nation. Thank god there’s a Malaysian like you who are still optimist about our country. Wishing a wonderful merdeka day this year!

  • chng kooi seng says:

    singapore is doing very well because its two neighbours have serious problems of governance. From day 1, the ringgit has been steadily losing value, from when it was 10% higher than SGD to its level down there in the pits. Suharto ensured his country got stunted by incarcerating the Chinese, who then took all their money out, all 368 billion. Does he bother about his country? Nits, as long as he is filthy rich, he couldn’t care less. Andy Xie, chief economist of Citibank Singapore, about 10-12 yrs ago, issued an in house analysis in which he said that without Indonesian hot money, singapore would be nowhere. That statement leaked out and he lost his job. In a recent Asia Sentinel article, it was mentioned that 18000 “rich” Indonesians are staying in singapore, with assets worth 68 billion USD. With all this money to lend out, no wonder singapore is doing well. When some of the rich Indonesians wanted to bring back some of the 368 billion, the singapore government threatened to charge them for money laundering! Wow, you accepted their hot money and when they want to take it out, you charge them! Singapore has become a predatory money launderette. Can bring in money ONLY, one way street.

  • Jimmy Arokia (nom de plume) says:

    Oh, what a wonderful news after signing off my comment to learn that the High Court has denied the trial of one kleptocrat, a Gag Order. Rightly so, as this bekas Perdana Menteri is not exactly the local kachang putih seller and also the trial is to be conducted by a judge and not a jury. This legal representative of his, Muhammed Shafee Abdullah, epistomise the worst of human behaviour and really degrade the human soul. Of course, he pretends to strut around as he is the font of all things legal. The fact is he is not and he makes my skin crawl.

    However, we, Malaysians are blessed by the likes of Clare Rewcastle-Brown and the Bruno Manser of this world. These are foreigners who are willing to pitch in to save our country and have come to embrace Malaysia as their own. How fortunate are we to have come into contact with such individuals including those at the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre such as Susan Sherward. We must salute them and honour them in the new Malaysia. They are prepared to risk and in Bruno’s case lost his life to see justice in our country.

    Dr. M, you must either engaged Scotland Yard or the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look into the horrific death of Altantuya Shaaribuu and not relied on the PDRM. As you rightly pointed out, if you were to sacked the corrupt administrative officials, there will be no one left to run the country. Bring on the case including using the doctrine of complicity to bring the persons involved and apply the death penalty to them for one last time. If you do not do it, I forecast the future of Malaysia will be bleak. This young lady died a dastardly death and nobody deserve it. Start with the source of the C4 explosives and its origin and how it has come into the hands of two foolish and dumb officers or body guards. Seek out Razak Baginda and where ever he is hiding or residing, issue a red notice to Interpol and bring him back to face justice. Justice delay is justice denied. Forget about the third national car, it is a hare brain idea and will only placed undue burden via tariffs on the long suffering Malaysians.

  • Jimmy Arokia (nom de plume) says:

    Kak Mariam, agreed with what you have written but not all of it. Singapore does not envy Malaysia except for the relaxed lifestyle which you so eloquently phrased. However, whilst Singapore has corruption, it is not systemic and largely a result of opportunism. Their bureaucracies are clean and transparent in comparison to Malaysia whereby nearly every administrative tasks required at one stage paying a bribe. The oft repeated accusations by Singaporeans travelling into Malaysia was the feigned breached of road rules, by motor vehicles bearing Singaporean registration plates, whereby the police will asked for coffee money. They will say, “nak selesai di sini atau nak pergi Court.” Naturally to avoid a trip to attend the hearing most Singaporeans acquiesced.

    Compare and contrast with my attempt to update my kad pengenalan which I had from the first stage with two thumb prints and a small photo and blue in colour. I was repeatedly asked to update but due to my living in the West, I did not bother. On one occasion, my good friend took me to update it and presented the relevant paper work for processing. I naturally presented a photocopy of the original as my friend warned me that they will snip up my old card. I so happened to have lost my luggage at KLIA and they issued me with a document as my luggage was on the way to Dubai and will be intercepted and returned to me. So that became a convenient cover for my not having original. But to my shock and horror, when I am able to finally claim my new IC, I was told that someone had already came and claimed it despite in my hand was the receipt for lodgement of the update. The administrative officer then advised me as this is a second issue there is a fee of $100 Ringgit and the subsequent loss of the kad will incur a penalty of $300 and then $500 for the next offence. As the exchange was in my favour, I did not quiver with her but left a bad taste in my mouth.

    Singapore is unfortunately, a chimera of law and order. This chimera was badly exposed in last year family feud over the legacy of LKY, where LHL’s sister had to quote Niemoller’s famous quote of not standing up for Jews and Communists when the state came to take them away. His nephew is currently unable to visit the country of his birth as he had been cited for contempt of Court when he wrote that the judiciary is compliant and I might act subservient. They like to play pretend soldiers with their national service. If you observed the Commander in Chief way of walking, you would wonder how he was given the pangkat of Brigadier General. He is as co-ordinated in his motor skills as a dead dodo and really lacked even basic social acuity as witnessed when the Donald and young Kim met in his city state.

    His National Servicemen train in Cairns, in Northern Australia and one night when they were out in town were badly beaten up by some half a dozen Aboriginals. How much hope do you place that in the event of war these play soldiers will be able to protect and defend the citizens. The vast majority of their population are what you would in the West called nerds, obsessed with paper qualifications and wealth accumulation. The vast majority of the Cabinet too are filled with colourless men and women and what we in Malaysia called orang amput bodek, or where I lived brown nosers or yes men. Unfortunately, there is a price to pay for such control and suppression. Firstly, you destroyed critical and creative thinking in your citizentry. Secondly, you create as you so well put soul less human beings and untold mental illness in the population. Of course, these problems are largely hidden with an occasion breakout. Thirdly, you create an environment where the orang putih is seen as the font of intelligence and wisdom. How else can a high school dropout from England, come to head a major bank and leading bank leading to its bankruptcy for the mere fact that he is English? (Nic Leeson and the Baring Bank)

    The list goes on but I shall not go any further and instead concentrate on our country. The problem of being ruled by a cabal of thieves and corrupt and evil individuals and party is not over yet. The continual problem of playing the man rather than the policies still pervade the majority of the debate in the Parliament. The continual invoking of protecting Islam, the Sultan and the hereditary rulers and Malay exceptionalism are the central theme of these uncouth, ill mannered members of UMNO.

    Unfortunately, in my opinion and with due respect, Islam and the hereditary rulers are the very antithesis of modernity and democracy.

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