Foreigners commenting on Singapore, where to draw the line?

As a citizen living in Singapore, where our footprint on the world map is significantly larger than the ratio of our citizens to the global population, it is inevitable that foreigners will comment (both good and bad) about our country.

There are multiple foreign news outlets stationed in Singapore to report both our country’s and the region’s news. Foreign reporters, academics, and expert observers often comment about what they observe about Singapore. A quick search on Quora will also show how foreigners also like to pose questions, and comment on issues pertaining to Singapore.

It was with interest that I read Derek Da Cunha’s views that “foreign nationals based in Singapore should really not be going online and commenting on a sustained and disturbingly obsessive basis on Singapore’s socio-political issues”.


Source: Derek Da Cunha FB

How do we define “sustained and disturbingly obsessive basis”? Are we going to regulate freedom of speech based on the quantity of posts by a foreigner in Singapore?

Critical Spectator isn’t the only foreigner who comments about Singapore. Singaporeans are familiar with Neil Humphreys, who has written many works about Singapore in various books and plays (and has been commenting about Singapore long before Michael Petraeus has).

The point Derek is missing, is that firstly we cannot stop foreigners from commenting about Singapore, but if they are transparent about where they come from, people can decide for themselves how much to value their opinions.

Who is worthy of commenting on Singapore?

Derek Da Cunha goes on to say “But if you are a foreign academic with one of the institutes of higher learning or a foreign research analyst with a consulting firm or multinational, then there is a proper – intellectual – setting for articulating one’s views and having a good exchange. That’s perfectly fine.”.

This comes off a bit elitist, that only people ‘educated’ enough should have their views heard.

Who should Singaporeans be careful of, when they comment about Singapore?

While some foreigners come out into the open, others hide behind a cloak of anonymity, such as ‘Kiara Xavier”, who is actually a Malaysian woman Rubaashini Shunmuganathan.

She was paid by The Online Citizen to write almost exclusively negative articles about Singapore under the name, which were read by Singaporeans.


Source: SMRT Feedback

While I can understand why some people prefer to give anonymous comments, foreigners should not misrepresent themselves as Singaporeans when they give comments.

What stake do they have when Singapore falls? Perhaps they profit off our chaos while staying hidden in the background, while we suffer.

While we are still figuring out the greyness of online conversations, practising these S.U.R.E. concepts for better information literacy may be more useful than restricting freedom of speech of foreigners who openly comment about Singapore.


Source: NLB


So there, in this day and age, there is no stopping anyone from commenting… because #internet. But I’m all for full disclosure and transparency so that those who have an actual stake in the country can decide for themselves. This would ensure we draw from the wisdom of some foreign commentators while making sure not to be misguided by others with a more sinister intent.

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