Mixed reactions to dual citizenship idea
The Straits Times | Feb 2, 1990
By: Sunny Goh

Some welcome second chance, others say it might encourage emigration

SHOULD Singaporeans who emigrate be allowed dual citizenship?
That suggestion, by Member of Parliament Peh Chin Hua, has clearly divided some Singaporeans.

Those who like the idea say it offers a "second chance" to people who made a mistake by emigrating and wish to return home. But others were dead against it. They said the loyalty of people holding two passports would be in question, and they feared that such a scheme might even encourage some people to emigrate.

Mr Peh, an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, had urged the Government to consider giving Singapore emigrants dual citizenship under certain conditions.

Writing in the latest issue of Petir, the official publication of the People's Action Party, he said that it could be given, for example, to Singaporeans who have emigrated, provided they completed national service or had returned for reservist training.

Among the 10 people interviewed by The Straits Times was Mr Zulkifli bin Baharudin, 30, an estate manager with EM Services, who was firmly against the idea.

He said he appreciated the need to attract talented Singaporeans back home, but felt that any solution should not be at the expense of undermining the loyalty of citizens.

"If they have already decided to give up their citizenship, why give them a foothold now, knowing well that their loyalty to, and faith in the country are both questionable?" he asked.

Accounts manager Cheam Hing Lee, 30, warned that if Singaporeans were allowed to hold two passports, they would simply "move in and out" for their own selfish reasons.

"What price loyalty? If they make a mistake, they should pay a price, not be given an option," he argued.

Moreover, Mr Cheam, who is also a Singapore Armed Forces reservist captain, feared that people who were undecided about emigrating might well decide to leave because the dual- citizenship option would mean that they could always come back.

Engineer Lawrence Tan, 30, who thought the proposal gave emigrants the best of both worlds, felt that there should be other ways to bring them back.

"For example, once they decide to come home for good, they must forgo their foreign citizenship once and for all," he suggested. Among those who backed Mr Peh's idea was architect Cheang Kum Cheong, who thought it provided "an escape valve" to those who regretted emigrating but feared that they would lose face if they returned.

He did not think the question of loyalty should be a stumbling block, because those who returned could be asked to pledge that they would not emigrate again.

Assistant textile manager S.P. Lim, 30, thought that by granting dual citizenship, the Government would be telling overseas Singaporeans that "the country still cares for them".

Contractor Lim Ah Soon, 48, felt that any scheme which brought "talent and prosperity" to Singapore must be good. "I support it," he said in Mandarin. A bank officer, Ms W.F. Lim, 28, thought the dual citizenship idea might provide an outlet for those who were frustrated with life here but were undecided about making a permanent change.

"It gives me a chance to consider migrating overseas and trying out a new life. I don't see anything wrong with it," she said.

Dr Arthur Beng, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law said that his GPC would discuss the dual citizenship idea. Personally, he said, he would not recommend dual citizenship because he found it totally unacceptable for national service and national security.

But he added that there were cases of Singapore emigrants' children who were keen to come back, and his GPC would look into how they could be helped.

Told about the reactions to his idea, Mr Peh said that a key consideration was whether male emigrants were prepared to do some form of national service if they had not already done so.

He stressed that the privilege should be granted only to those who were sincere and deserving, and if they applied for it. "If the Government feels that they cannot contribute effectively to the country and that they will be a minus factor, they will not be granted citizenship," he added.

He said he would gather feedback on his idea before deciding whether to raise the issue in Parliament.