Dear Mr. Tan
Here's my observation about the recent xenophobia that arose amongst Singaporeans in the wake of the Ferrari-taxi crash tragedy.
Back when I was a little kindergarten student in 1980, I learned that Singapore's population was 2.4 million. In fact, Singapore always had waves of immigration. Of course in the 19th century to mid-20th century, it was our Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese forefathers from South China who came here to work as coolies. Then when Mainland China opened up, waves of Chinese came in during the 1990s, both professionals (teachers, accountants) and non-skilled workers. There was also a big wave of Hong Kongers who migrated to Singapore before the 1997 handover to China, in addition to constant waves of Malaysians and Indonesians throughout the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
All in all, it took about 25 years for the population to reach 4.2 million (increase of 1.8 million) by 2005. With the country's birth-rate so low, this was also largely the result of immigration...over 25 YEARS. Xenophobia was unheard of and totally alien to Singaporeans before 2006. I believe the majority of Singaporeans were fine and happy with our "foreign talent" injecting fresh skills, ideas and best practices into our professions and businesses.
THEN from 2006 to 2011, suddenly there is a 1 million increase in population. Suddenly Singapore's population grew from 4.2 million to 5.2 million people in 5 YEARS. NOW, there is xenophobia.
So what happened?
The old Biblical story of Exodus as depicted in The Ten Commandments movie classic is a case in point. When the Jews left Egypt, theirs weren't a pure Jewish community. A whole lot of Egyptians and slaves from other ethnic groups also left with them, forming a wandering disparate community of 2 million people (as estimated by Biblical scholars based on a census of 603,550 men mentioned in Exodus 38:24-29 – if you include women and children, the community population was likely to number around 2 million). There were plenty of teething problems, with the community rejecting their Jewish roots and wanting to worship a golden calf (maybe due to the influence of pagan beliefs from other ethnicities) in the beginning. OK, we all know what happened when Moses came down the mountain and became enraged at the sight of the notorious golden calf. Subsequently, this disparate nation of 2 million people had to wander around the wilderness for 40 YEARS before they reached the Promised Land of Israel.
Lesson: It took 40 years for all the different non-Jew ethnicities to integrate with the Jews and become truly one people. There are interpretations that the 40 years in the desert was a punishment for worshiping the golden calf, but God also had a very practical reason. It takes that long to forge one united nation out of this 2 million-strong cauldron of disparate ethnicities.
My take is that 5 years is way too short to expect the 2 million foreigners now living amongst us to integrate and be totally accepted by the people of Singapore.