Sovereignty vs Insecurity

The vitriol against the plan by the Filipino community in Singapore to celebrate Philippines Independence Day is mind boggling to say the least. The event, scheduled to be held on 8th June at Ngee Ann City, in the heart of Singapore’s shopping belt, Orchard Road is expected to attract about 10,000 people. Although there are sensible voices amongst the ire, the question still remains; “What’s the fuss?”

The proponents of the event argue that the event is not something new. It has been held for at least the past two years albeit not in Orchard Road. Furthermore, this sort of event is not unique to Singapore. London for example, has hosted a Malaysia Day every year for so many years, and just recently a Singapore Day was held as well. The planned event by the Filipinos in Singapore should therefore be taken as it is; an Independence Day celebration by a group of migrant workers who are proud of their country, and apparently happy with the country they work in.

Cutting through the plethora of insults, sarcasms, racial innuendoes, shouts and unkind noises, the argument against the event basically boils down to the notion of sovereignty. Singapore, they say, is a sovereign nation and to have a big group of another nationality gathering in the middle of country, waving their national flag and singing patriotic songs will somehow or rather, have an impact on Singapore’s sovereignty, as if it will be a pre-cursor to an invasion and conquest.  This argument is no doubt, tedious and too far-fetched. Misplaced nationalism at best. Xenophobic at worst. There is also an argument that the event will open a can of worms. The first step to something far more nefarious.  It’s a case of giving an inch and wanting a foot. The Filipinos will next ask for Tagalog to be taught in schools and for other rights as well.  Again, this is too stretched. And then there are the plain racist’s retorts. They are reprehensible and really not worth arguing with. Haters, after all, are going to hate.

This apprehension towards the event perhaps boils down to a sense of insecurity. But it is indeed bizarre for Singaporeans to feel insecure about an event to be celebrated by a group of people who have been living in our midst for such a long time. A big chunk of a generation has been raised by foreign maids, many are Filipinas. It is ironic that we can feel secure and safe to invite a maid, someone who is practically a stranger into our house, to help run the household, to cook for us, to take care of our children and old folks, and yet when they gather to celebrate their country’s independence day, some of us are afraid. Why? What’s the underlying reason?

One of the reasons could perhaps be the juxtaposition of our inability to adapt to the sudden influx of foreigners into our country and our weariness of them. Perhaps we need more time to adjust to this influx and in so doing, we are unsure on how to react when they start to organize themselves. We are unsure of their real intentions. We feel threatened simply due to our lack of understanding.

Or is it because of our country’s small size that we need to compensate it with a heightened sense of anxiety so much so that something as benign as a celebration of independence could trigger our sense of self-preservation?

Whatever it is, it is something that we as a nation must try to understand and manage. And that goes to the government too. To call the vitriol ‘repulsive’ just goes to show that the government is as perplexed as many of us at the adverse reactions to the seemingly innocuous event. Disappointed maybe. But repulsive is too strong a word to describe an opinion of a group of people who are only trying to get a grip at the changing social landscape.

But should we allow our sense of insecurity to stop a harmless event from being organised? We say no. We must grow as a society, as a nation and part of the growing pains requires us to have trust in others, just as we trust a stranger into our homes and lives.

So to the Filipinos we say, go ahead with your celebrations. Be safe and ignore the noises. They are the noises of Singapore growing up.

Happy Philippines Independence Day in advance.

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