A controversial plan to boost Singapore’s population with a large number of immigrants has been met with a rare street protest.
The move follows the government’s acceptance of a study aimed at arresting the country’s declining population with a bid to allow 1.3 million immigrants into the country by 2030.
The three hour long rally was held at speakers’ corner in Hong Lim Park when 4,000 people voiced their opposition to the plan.
Protest organisers promoted the event using Facebook and many of those who turned out were carrying placards many of which said they wanted to be heard, not herded.
One of the organisers, Gilbert Goh who has previously stood for parliament, said: “The large number of protestors showed the government that they are not afraid anymore and that they don’t want to hide behind Facebook to show their displeasure at the proposals.”
The protest is a concern for the government since such gatherings have only been allowed since 2000 and the immigration issue looks set to be a major concern for the next elections in 2016.
More worryingly is that the protest is the country’s first based solely on politics.
Singaporeans are concerned about the plans blaming the current influx of migrants for the country’s increasing property prices and rising unemployment.
Protesters are also concerned that if the immigration plan goes ahead they will become a minority in their own city-state.
Eugene Tan, a law professor at Singapore Management University, said the government had made a mistake in presenting its policy is being imperative for the country and, he added, that Singaporeans no longer accepted that the decisions made by the government were necessarily the right ones.
The rare protest also saw support from Singapore’s former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong who said he was pleased to see the issue being debated and people coming out and being seen to disagree.
The government is predicting the population will rise by 30% to 6.9 million people, with immigrants likely to make up half of that total figure.
Like many developed countries, Singapore is facing issues with an ageing population and a fall in birth rates, so needs immigrants to help maintain its economic growth.
The government’s White Paper on the issue states: “If we do too little to address the demographic challenge, we risk becoming a steadily greying society, losing vitality and verve, with our young people leaving for opportunities elsewhere.
“But if we take in too many immigrants and foreign workers, we will weaken our national identity and sense of belonging, and feel crowded out of our own home.”