I am second generation immigrant in Singapore. My parents were both Malaysians. They came to Singapore in the early 70s to work. During those days, Malaysians will leave their hometown to work in Singapore for higher wages. They met each other in Singapore and settled here ever since. My mummy, especially knew that life will be difficult if our family moves back to Malaysia. She had her first hand experience of being passed over for her dream job to be a nurse because of racial discrimination. She believes that in Singapore, everyone will have equal opportunity regardless of race, language or religion, which was what Mr Lee advocated. She stood her ground to stay in Singapore no matter what, despite objections from her family. We got our citizenship in the 80s. Fast forward, all my siblings are deeply rooted in Singapore. Within my entire family, we’re the only Singaporeans while 95% of our extended families is spread over Malaysia. The education I had is recognised worldwide. My parents and siblings each have a home to call our own. We have great careers and provide well for ourselves and our family. We enjoy peace and stability. Our streets are safe. We lack nothing in our lives.
This is the difference Mr Lee made to people like my family, though it seems less significant to his bigger achievement in building a world class nation, to us it’s a whole lot of difference.
We have made home ownership the cornerstone of Singapore’s public housing policy – the vast majority of the population own, not rent, their homes. Ownership is critical because we were an immigrant community with no common history. Our peoples came from many different parts of Asia. Home ownership helped to quickly forge a sense of rootedness in Singapore. It is the foundation upon which nationhood was forged. The pride people have in their homes prevents our estates from turning into slums, which is the fate of public housing in other countries. –– Mr Lee Kuan Yew, 2009