Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Singapore. The courage and wisdom of the Government of India and the fear and insecurity of the Government of Singapore. Dual Nationality.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I was born in Singapore. Presently I am an American citizen and live in the suburbs of San Francisco. In becoming an American, I had to relinquish my Singapore citizenship. My parents were born in India. Even though, I have been to India only occasionally and on business, by virtue of law, it so happens that I am now also an Indian Citizen. This is because India recently enacted the law of dual nationality permitting all persons of Indian descent of certain countries such as the USA to also be Indian citizens, automatically, by virtue of their Indian descent.

Dual nationality is also the law in many countries including the UK under the British Nationality Act giving persons with British ancestry by virtue of either their birth, their father's birth of grandparent’s birth in UK. Israel is another country that automatically bestows Israeli nationality upon anyone with a Jewish mother.

It is not only courageous for a country to have laws to permit those who have left to return, it also is greatly beneficial to the country of return. People who leave for other countries improve themselves in many ways. They receive an education, skills and money which, if they return to their country of descent, benefits it, by being the beneficiary of these qualities and assets of the returning resident. On the whole, dual nationality benefits the country of return much more than the country which the resident leaves.

In California there are people from all over the world. The Indians from India, the Filipinos, the Pakistanis, the Lebanese, you name it, they are here. Many of these immigrants work hard and benefit from new skills, education, experience and greater sophistication of California. And for many of these people, although they have loyalty and gratitude to the US for allowing them to come and work in the US, they still long for their home countries and many will return home one day. The US realizes this migration of people back to their home countries and accepts it without objection. Their home countries welcome them with open arms because these countries now benefit by the greater skills money experience and assets these immigrants bring with them from the US. It is win win situation both ways.

And the attitude of these immigrants from India and other countries is admirable. Every Indian that I meet, even though he has lived in the US for many years, still remains very proud of India, always only having nice things to say about it. As the saying goes in India, once an Indian, always an Indian. You see the same way of thinking among the other races here. Whenever a Filipino talks of the Philippines, he refers to it as "Back Home". Even the packing boxes have the name of the company printed on it "Balikbayan" which translated means "returning resident". All these people look upon their countries with fond memories, knowing their country will accept them anytime, regardless of where they had gone or which nationality they adopt.

And I had said that a country needs courage to accept their returning people, they need courage to permit dual nationality. I say courage because their countries of origin are aware that the returning residents may be quite different from what they were in their philosophies and political views. They may be returning to challenge their countries of origin politically. They may become a threat to the ruling parties of the home countries. Some returning Indians may have formed opinions and views contrary to Manmohan Singh and the Congress Party of India and may be returning to mount a challenge against him. But no matter what the intentions of the returnees are or how much they may have changed, India welcomes them because they are of Indian descent. Israel welcomes them because they are Jews and the UK welcomes them because they are British.

Singaporeans in California are quite different. So is Singapore. There is not one Singaporean in California which I have met who had anything nice to say about Singapore. In fact all of them showed bitter hatred to Singapore and what it stood for. The complaints were obvious. That it was a dictatorship without any freedom. That the PAP and Lee Kuan Yew were dictators and embezzlers who stole Singaporean’s money by giving themselves salaries of millions of dollars belonging to the people and so on and so forth. Singaporeans on the whole do not wish to return to Singapore. It is always a case of good riddance. They have nothing nice to say about their country. They love the USA instead.

And the attitude of Singapore is the same. Once you adopt foreign nationality, you lose Singapore nationality Sua Sponte. Singapore does not want you anymore. I am sure Singapore does realize that their citizens going abroad to Western countries acquire great many skills, qualities and assets which will be beneficial to Singapore if they returned, just as the Indians who return to India from the US. But Singapore will not allow a blanket dual nationality because it fears. In Lee Kuan Yew's eyes, it will not be safe if Francis Seow were to return to Singapore, or if Tang Lian Hong were to return from Australia. They may cause mischief causing Lee Kuan Yew to lose his dictatorial grip on power. It is necessary therefore to keep all opponents of Lee's regime out of Singapore and permit only those who are prepared to submit. That is why all foreign consulates and embassies have detailed forms and documents that have to be submitted before it is decided whether or not to permit a former Singaporean to be allowed to return for permanent residence in Singapore. So it quite all right to tell Francis Seow now not to apply for permanent residence in Singapore because you tell him that he will not get it, because Lee does not feel safe to have him around.

Singapore in this case is a government lacking in confidence as compared to the government of India which dares to allow anyone to come, because they know that the foundations of civil society in India are strong enough to tackle any opposition to it. Obviously also because India is a democracy with rule of law, unlike Singapore which is a dictatorship under the rule of the Lee family. For a small country like Singapore, a large proportion of their population lives outside Singapore. Taking the country of Lebanon, the interesting fact is that more Lebanese actually live outside Lebanon by a mile. In fact the Lebanese population in Sao Paulo and Brazil alone is greater than the entire population of Lebanon. One can understand why the Lebanese leave. Wars and civil wars unabated. Unmitigated misery. It is understandable. But there are no wars in Singapore. Neither is there poverty. Why then do several thousands, even scores of people leave the shores of Singapore every day. And after leaving why do they have so much hatred against their country, never wanting to return to it.

The answer can only be dislike of living under a dictatorship, the dislike of being told what to do and what not to do by a government that thinks it knows best, the dislike of the corruption in the judiciary, the dislike of having no say in the running of their country, the dislike of living without fundamental rights of free speech and expression and generally the desire to be free. So as long as Lee continues to live in fear of his own people and remains determined to supress their freedoms and aspirations, good people will continue to leave and it's attempts to attract immigrants will only result in mediocre applicants, because they do not qualify for their preferred Australia and Canada.

Singapore will continue to remain second class as a country, just trudging along and getting by. As long as it denies freedom to it's people, Singapore can never hope to be great and neither will it be able to retain it's best people. To borrow a phrase from Lord Macaulay “Singapore is like an ostrich with it's undeveloped wings. It can run, but it can never hope to soar".

Gopalan Nair
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914
EMail: gopalnair@us-immigrationlaw.com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An excellent piece.
Although I find one fact interesting.
The PAP does not want singaporeans to withdraw their CPF, making up difficult rules and regulations so that even when one hits retirement age, one cannot spend one's savings. However, if one were to give up one's citizenship, they would be able to withdraw all of their CPF. If in fact the pap finally allows dual citizenship, they would give themselves another means of holding on to the CPF and disallow us from withdrawing it even though it's our money.