Friday, December 13, 2013

Isolated incident again? Connecting the isolated incidents.

As the year 2013 draws closer to 2014, Little India rioted. Coincidentally, it has been two consecutive year ends where unprecedented events have shocked our little island. Both events are regarded as isolated incidents.

Just a year ago, approximately this time round of the year, Michael Palmer stained the whiter-than-white records of the PAP’s with his extra-marital affair. That was the only affair that surfaced and thus could be safely tucked away as an “isolated” case.

One year later, Little India rioted. LHL promptly declared this latest unfortunate event an isolated incident. An isolated incident…again! There has been an excessive use of the phrase “isolated incidents” of late.

The 2010 unprecedented Orchard flood started off as an isolated incident, as proclaimed by a certain minister, eventually led to a series of isolated floods beyond the traditional flood-prone locations. And even Orchard itself witnessed a second “isolated” flood at the same location. A section of AYE has to be closed off this year. Do these series of isolated flooding not connect to a bigger picture of excessive urbanization?

And unfortunately for LHL, this latest round of social disruption at Little India triggers my memory of the strike staged by the Chinese nationals. And we are now witnessing another social disruption/collective challenge to authorities, at a larger scale, exhibited again by another group of foreign workers. It is not about the issue of foreign workers causing social disruptions, but whether our authorities are seriously tackling the impacts brought about by a huge proportion of foreigners, workers or talents alike.

Beyond that veneer layer of the fatal road accident that sparked the riot is a striking similarity between the riot and the strike, involving the welfare of low-wage foreign workers. Exploitation or unfair treatment, compounded by lack of GENUINE avenues and protection to improve their situations, leads to eventual pent up frustration and injustice that are just waiting to erupt.

Therefore, these two “isolated” cases are not as “isolated” as what our political leaders would dictate us to believe.

In fact, the year 2013 alone saw many other unprecedented or “isolated” events that took place on our island. Hacking govt websites and data theft from StandChart. Flying SMRT bus that overturned and killed one out of the two passengers on board; noticeably increasing new forms of crime committed by foreign nationals, adding on to our own local crime, such as Caucasians physically assaulting taxi drivers/security guards. Fires erupted at our MRT stations. Health-wise, new form of disease such as chikungunya is achieving record high. Dengue fever outbreak reached record high this year too. TB is definitely returning. And even annual/frequent environmental disruptions such as haze and floods involved unprecedented scale--our haze has breached PSI record high and frequent flooding has caused an unprecedented closure of a section of AYE this year. Even sinkholes start to appear on our island.

Far too many isolated incidents in recent years. Even if we try to isolate each and every unfortunate incident as our political leaders would frame, it will be very difficult not to see that the connections among many of these isolated incidents.

Many of these isolated incidents that occurred across different domains of our society do connect to construct a bigger picture of the impacts resulting from our population expansion policy.

Riots/strike and hacking of govt websites seem unrelated at the first glance, but these isolated incidents indicate two groups of unhappy people on our island, foreign and local alike, and whose voices are suppressed. Their source of unhappiness may differ but their unhappiness stems from the same policy of mindless population expansion. For the foreign workers, their unhappiness is caused by unreasonable wages and working conditions and the lack of proper protection from our authorities; the hackers represent a group of local citizens unhappy with living issues that result from the population expansion policy. Growing population demands more infrastructure and constructions that in turn creates the ever increasing reliance on large numbers of foreign workers who contribute to the size of our population and whose presence is the result of the same population expansion policy. Singaporeans did not create that demand for more infrastructure and construction. It is the need for a greater population that creates the demand. And that “need” is bulldozed through by our political leaders despite having “channels” of discussions/conversations with the people.

Other isolated incidents such persistent flooding, health problems, public transport woes, public safety and living costs that spread across all domains of our society are the ill-effects of excessive urbanization and over-crowdedness,  which are the by-products of population expansion policy.

Paper calculation of the economic benefits derived from a growing population is straightforward. But whether the calculation conducted by our premium leaders includes tackling the physical, social, psychological and emotional needs of a human, the isolated incidents simply expose their lack of preparedness. We can see that constructions of more infrastructure and residential units are driving at full steam to welcome the future human imports, but as can be seen from the eruption of the range of isolated incidents, it is an overly-simplistic approach to a population expansion policy as it entirely overlooks the psychological welfare of the people. To think that infrastructure and buildings alone assure quality of life when humans are subject to shrinking public space and resources is irresponsible. It dehumanizes the people living within. A human needs goes beyond being housed and transported by modern trains, if we still regard this country as a first world country.

Did it for once occur to our premium leaders that Singapore Journey Citizenship does not guarantee an automated integration of foreigners to our society? It is naïve to think so, if it took us three generations of political, economic and social influence to integrate our four ethnic groups and yet, our racial harmony appears so vulnerable that Amy Cheong’s single rant on Malay wedding terrified the authorities and ministers to the extent that she was sent packing. Our racial harmony appears superficial to our political leaders and yet, the same group of people are adamant to import people from a huge diversity of cultures and nationalities, complicating the already flimsy racial harmony of ours, and further enlarging the holes in our social fabric. 

And whether our social services and law enforcement are sufficient to support the growing population, the complexity of our new demographics and the increasingly strained public safety, it is still to be seen. Looking at current range of isolated incidents, it is not optimistic.

As seen of the range, scale and frequency of these isolated incidents, it is as plain as day that there is a complete lack of foresight of forestalling the social issues arising from artificially growing our population. Behind that picture of population expansion painted by the isolated incidents, another frightening picture beneath that is the complete incompetency of our leadership. Our political leaders either failed terribly in managing the social impacts of their population expansion policy which they wanted to sell to us, or they are simply disinterested in the welfare of our people.

This picture is far more terrifying than the population expansion policy itself. The inability to effectively resolve population-related issues will compound the “little discomforts” of shrinking public space for the people. And to further rub chilli into our already deep wounds, the benefits of population expansion will be creamed off for our premium leaders and a few groups of people, leaving the average people to pick up the tabs.