An excerpt from an email recently sent out by the Overseas Singaporean Unit to those who had registered with them:
I’m hoping it was an April Fool’s joke when a local newspaper columnist wrote that receiving monthly issues of this e-newsletter made her feel somewhat ‘guilty’. Don’t be. Don’t you believe that choosing to live overseas earns you a ‘quitter’ label. Everyone has the right to exercise a choice to be abroad – for work, for studies, for internship, for love.
There are legitimate and honourable reasons to [sic] being away from home. My cousin works with the United Nations and flies the Singapore flag high in New York. A friend married a German and resettled in his part of the world. An ex-colleague’s moved to the UAE where her husband’s been posted to work for a few years. Another lady I know gave up her high-paying job in Singapore to head an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. They’re true-blue (or red and white) Singaporeans living away from home with strong family ties; there’s no reason why they should be viewed as less of a Singaporean than their loved ones who live 85 miles north of the equator.
On the surface of it, it sounds like a sincere attempt to make amends for the “quitter” label that Goh Chok Tong had applied without discrimination to Singaporeans who had emigrated. However, the second paragraph hints at a continuing soreness about some overseas Singaporeans. By announcing that there are “legitimate and honourable reasons” for being away, it implies that there are also other reasons which are illegitimate and dishonourable. The examples the email cites fall in two classes: 1) People who move overseas to be with their spouse; 2) People who move overseas to take up a humanitarian job of some sort. It can’t help but leave me with a nagging suspicion that people who move because they prefer the lifestyle overseas or because they can better advance their non-humanitarian careers overseas are still regarded as “dishonourable”.
Finally, a minor point of presentation: the standard of English in the email left much to be desired. I counted seven grammatical errors in it.