Singapore: PR status
by Imelda Saad Aziz 05:55 AM Sep 08, 2010SINGAPORE -
The suggestion floated by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong to not renew the permanent resident status of "some" PRs should they decline the invitation to take up citizenship has stoked much interest, with Singaporeans and foreigners here divided over the proposal.
Mr Goh was speaking to Marine Parade residents at a National Day Rally feedback session on Monday. Among several suggestions on how to tackle immigration challenges, Mr Goh said the Government was "going to approach some (PRs) to take up Singapore citizenship".
Mr Goh had added: "If they don't, then their PR (status) will not be renewed."
Mr Goh did not elaborate on how such a process might be undertaken. Political watchers noted Mr Goh did not define which PRs might be targeted, for how long they would have lived here before they might be offered such an option, what sort of jobs they might hold or the countries from which they came from.
Nevertheless, PRs whom MediaCorp spoke to were concerned. Said French national Benoit Doumas, 28, who became a PR two years ago: "What will happen if you refuse to become a citizen? People like me who have been here for two years are not perfect to be citizens yet."
While he called Singapore his "second home", Mr Benoit pointed out that he still has ties with his homeland.
But, 43-year-old Perumal Moorthy, who took up citizenship in 1997, felt the proposal was "a good idea because it helps the Government identify the right people who are genuine about sinking their roots in Singapore".
Sembawang GRC MP Ellen Lee said Mr Goh's remarks were a "call to action" for PRs.
Said Ms Lee: "So far, we have stopped short of saying, 'Look, why not force them to be Singapore citizens?' The differentiation measures have already been introduced but is that enough to convince PRs to be Singapore citizens?"
Jurong GRC MP Halimah Yacob felt it was "about time" that the Government look into such a move. Mdm Halimah said she has come across PRs who have enjoyed that status for more than 20 years. Said Mdm Halimah: "Twenty years is enough time to decide which way they want to go."
Tampines GRC MP Ong Kian Min added: "Singaporeans want that commitment from foreigners and do not want to be taken for a ride - for foreigners to come and take advantage of the situation here while the going is good, and still reserving the choice to go back to their home country."
Engineer K H Chua said PRs should make their choice. Said Mr Chua: "I don't want to see them using Singapore as a stepping stone to a better place."
But another Singaporean Mr S R Tan disagreed. although he felt "more could be done" to make PRs "fulfil obligations to the society".
Said Mr Tan: "Singaporeans accept high quality PRs... what we see now are PRs competing (with Singaporeans) at the middle level for jobs."
Institute of Policy Studies research fellow Leong Chan Hoong felt Mr Goh's suggestion was plausible if the Government are targeting PRs "who have stayed here for a certain period of time and who have benefited from our social policies".
For example, those who have children who went through the education system here or those who are getting health care benefits.
Singapore Management University law professor Eugene Tan felt that such a policy - if it gets adopted at all - would have to be implemented in tandem with sharper distinction between the benefits enjoyed by PRs and citizens respectively.
Said Assistant Professor Tan: "In fact for many PRs, having citizenship in another country and a Singapore PR are a very good combination."
Mr Goh's comments also led some to suggest Singapore go further: Offer dual citizenship to selected PRs.
Malaysian PR Annie Siow said: "Malaysians come here to earn more income.. most of my friends don't plan to become citizens because they want to retire in their own country."
The Government has not ruled out dual citizenship but it has previously expressed reservations toward such a move, which it felt was premature given Singapore's status as a young nation.
Asst Prof Tan noted that policy makers "should not discount the possibility of dual nationality". He added: "The main thing is to ensure that citizenship does mean something. It is not just a means to a passport ... It is also a sense of identity and belonging."