11/10/2005

the singapore soup, changing flavour

there is an article in the straits times today comparing the racial strife in france with the relative calm in singapore and the different approaches adopted by the two countries to integrate the minorities. france chose to adopt a policy of pretending that there is no difference, and thus no problem. that the migrants will somehow find their niche in society if left on their own. even their racial and religious inclinations were not reflected in their identity cards/passports. thus no way to trace them or conduct any meaningful studies on them. in contrast, singapore did not run away from the problem of racial integration. we confronted them as they are and take necessary actions and policies to deal with them. and yes, we have the race and religion of every citizen clearly printed on the identity cards. and we acknowledged that there will always be some problems and these need to be tackled promptly and sensitively. there is no running away from minority problems. it existed in all societies. after almost two hundred years of existence with a migrant population, some form of identity is taking shape. conscious national policies to develop an identity over the last 40 years also helped to gel a society of mixed fellows into one that recognises the differences as well as respecting them but emphasising on more neutral factors that are common to all. while this is taking shape, a kind of singapore flavour is developing and getting more distinct, we are throwing more meat and spices into the soup. perhaps we are adding too much of new ingredients into the soup too fast. the flavour will change. it might turn out better, into a totally new brew, or it might become a poisonous concoction that becomes unpalatable. it is better that we be more careful and slow down the pace of such a vital change to the mixed bag of people that we have now. too much of a change might dilute everything and destroy the broth. changing the composition of a society is not something to be trifled with and thinking that all is safe.

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