Saturday, May 07, 2005

Transit Hotel Inc.

Last Wednesday I was flipping through the papers looking for the comics when the following blurb in the TV listings page caught my attention.

In this brand new season, find out how Singaporeans fit into their adoptive countries and how they adjust when they are back home.
Get Rea! on Channel NewsAsia at 8.32 and 11.32pm
- from The Straits Times Wednesday, May 4, 2005 (Life! section page 9)
I assumed it was a program about Singapore emigrants who have chosen to return to Singapore. Even although I was aware that it would most likely be blatant propaganda promoting the return of overseas Singaporeans, my interest was piqued.

Unfortunately my family does not own a DVD recorder, nor a VCR and watching television at close to midnight in a tiny HDB flat with paper-thin walls is going end up disturbing the sleep of the members of my family. Fortunately an old friend JRTKK was kind enough to record and send the program to me as a stream of data.

Talk about false advertising! The program was not about returning Singapore emigrants at all. (Or perhaps the original material was cancelled after going to press.) The program turned out to be on international students in Singapore. Hosted by Diana Ser, the half-hour segment featured three international students who are studying in Singapore.

Not having watched Singapore television for some time now, it was interesting to take apart the propaganda. I found it interesting to watch the official spin on why Singapore is such a great destination for overseas students in the international schools here and imply why the locals should embrace these overseas students. My notes from the perspective of a native Singapore heartlander are as follow.

Feature 1:
Matthew Djojonegoro. Indonesia Chinese. Student at United World College.

The profile opens with mention of the Indonesia 1998 race riots. Message is that Singapore is a safe society with no race violence. Home for him is the Four Seasons Park in Orchard Road. Has been here for seven years, yet rarely ventures out of the tourist belt except for school.

Proceeds to try to debunk overseas students as "spoilt, grown up in rich families, don't study, schools are easy. just hang out and party. It is just a steorotype". Has tuition everyday just "like most Singaporeans". Tries to paint them as misunderstood due to the punk-style dressing and nonconformist views nonewithstanding.

An interview with a shopkeeper in an upclass boutique mentions that these international students usually drop $500 or so at one go and thousands of dollars a month in retail. "Foreign kids have a lot of money". The message is that these folks are good for business.

"His family's wealth allows Matthew to turn Singapore into his own personal playground", says Diana Ser.

"Singapore is just kind of like - You stop by here a few years. You try to finish your high school, get your diploma, or degreee. And after that, we are off to the US, London, Australia. This is just a stop over."
- notable quote of the segment

Feature 2:
Alex Lincoln Chew. Born in singapore. Lived in Thailand all his life. Studied at international schools in Bangkok. Currently serving National Service, when family had to move back to Singapore due to his father's job.

The message here is that National Service forms ties, brings people together and builds a society. Profiled as captain of the unit's rugby team. National Service makes him feel "part of the team". Talks about how he felt out of place, depressed, fought with his parents, cried, was angry - even traumatised by the move back but National Service "helps him to fit in".

"After a year in the army, Alex is now just one of the guys", says Diana Ser.

"Alex says he is going to stay put in Singapore for now. Even though he has been accepted in an American university, he plans to apply for a local university."
- notable quote of the segment

Feature 3:
Sara Jaffri. Pakistani from Karachi. Has lived in Karachi, Saudi Arabia, and now Singapore. Student in United World College in Singapore.

The message for this segment pitches the multicultural nature of Singapore society - allowing a Muslim to fit in and thrive here. Highlights her friends from all different cultures and creeds. "Something that I would not have had at home living in Pakistan."

Talks about her struggles with accepting the limits of parental control and with the restraints defined by her reglious beliefs. About how she gets "sulky and rebellious" from the constraints but learns to live with it.

Sara is headed for Canada for her university education.

"Home will always be Karachi and Pakistan where I was born. Where I lived."
- notable quote of the segment

The program closes with the voice over from the host.

"Three young Asian faces. A million opportunities for the future... they will probably fit in anywhere in the world but the challenge is to find somewhere where they will feel truly at home."


The question that needs to be asked is how many of these transient residents will Singapore be able to keep for the long term?

Or is Singapore forever doomed to be Singapore Inc: Bed-and-breakfast for those passing through? Little more than a resource to be exploited by those who can afford to?
Nation without Nationhood. To use the poignant phrase by Tym, "citizen heartbreak". Indeed.

I don't need chink-chink-Chinaman who finished his PhD somewhere without a single (useful) publication or attempt at it. I'm sure they want our money, but we do not need them.
- Convex Set, blog entry
Reporting Without a Clue

Yes, Singapore will get all the white trash it wants. Yes, it will get all the brown trash it wants. Anything's better than living in villages without electricity. But it's going to have problems getting the brown sahibs it needs.
-, blog entry
Why I was fired in Singapore

...dilute the desire for understanding, and ramp procedure following to the max. But admittedly, they are very good at it, following procedure and substituting numerical values into formulas that is.
Convex Set, blog entry
On “On” and On, and On, and On

What kind of Singapore will I have to grow old in as a serf, as we continue our relentless top-down economic-driven policies?


Blogger sari said...

If only I have loads of money to spend too.. dat will be a joy~ heehehee are u enjoying Perth still? hehe

May 07, 2005 4:05 AM  
Blogger insanityiscreativity said...

I have been trying to find reasons to not to stay in singapore. I can breathe in there. Maybe its just me

May 07, 2005 11:54 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home