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Cablegate: Embassy Singapore: No Experience Engaging

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHGP #0869 2530128
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 100128Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7179

UNCLAS SINGAPORE 000869

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR S/GPI
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR S/P
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR EAP/MTS - M. COPPOLA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: BEXP BTIO EAID OEXC OIIP PGOV PHUM PREL SCUL
SMIG, TSPL, EINV
SUBJECT: EMBASSY SINGAPORE: NO EXPERIENCE ENGAGING
DIASPORA COMMUNITIES

REF: STATE 86401

1. Post does not know of any community of Singaporeans
living abroad that would qualify as a "diaspora" using the
criteria set forth in reftel paragraph 4. Given that there
are no known diaspora communities of Singaporeans, Post is
unable to provide meaningful responses to the questions posed
in reftel paragraph 15. However, Post offers the following
additional observations.

2. While there are approximately 180,000 Singaporeans living
outside Singapore, our impression is that most emigrants are
educated and cosmopolitan people who leave for professional
reasons. They are generally free and able to travel between
their adopted country and Singapore as often as they please.
We doubt there is any such thing as a "collective memory,"
"homeland myth," or "diasporic consciousness" among
Singaporeans living abroad. The Government of Singapore has
sometimes expressed concern over a perceived brain drain due
to sustained low-level emigration by highly educated
Singaporeans, but neither the government nor the public
appears to conceptualize this phenomenon as a diaspora issue.

3. In one sense (though not in the sense defined by reftel),
nearly every Singaporean is a member of a diaspora community,
because none of the current inhabitants is descended from the
indigenous people of the Malay Peninsula (of whom there are
estimated to be less than 200,000 left, and none in
Singapore). The ethnic Chinese (75% of the population)
immigrated mostly from southern provinces of China when
Singapore was a British colony. These immigrants employed
several distinct varieties of spoken Chinese. The ethnic
Indian population (9%), largely but not uniformly
Tamil-speaking, arrived during the same period. The ethnic
Malays (14%), who sometimes erroneously refer to themselves
as the indigenous people of Singapore, came here before the
British arrived, although the experts cannot agree on their
true geographic origins. These ethnic communities have
preserved many of their respective customs, traditions, and
religious observances in Singapore, but they do not appear to
think of themselves as members of diasporas. Often, they
self-identify as simply Singaporean. Otherwise, they
self-identify as Chinese Singaporean, as Indian Singaporean,
or as members of a greater Malay "race" who form the majority
in neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia and perceive themselves
as the rightful masters of the entire peninsula.

4. Singapore also contains approximately 1.2 million
non-resident foreigners and 480,000 resident foreigners, as
compared to a resident citizenry numbering just under 3.2
million. Most of the non-resident foreigners are low-wage
workers present without their families on one- or two-year
work permits. They generally return to their home countries
when their contracts end. It is questionable whether these
transient workers form stable communities at all, but they
certainly do not meet reftel's definition of a diaspora. It
is more difficult to generalize about the resident foreigners
and higher-wage non-resident foreigners. In these
categories, no one ethnic group or nationality is obviously
dominant, and the Government of Singapore does not publish
statistics that could be used to investigate possible group
identities.

5. Finally, levels of immigration into Singapore are
substantial relative to Singapore's small population and low
birth rate. In 2008, approximately 79,000 immigrants became
Singapore permanent residents, and approximately 20,500
became citizens. Post believes the majority of recent
immigrants come from mainland China, but again, there are no
published statistics that would permit further analysis.
Post has seen no evidence so far of the formation of new
diaspora communities within Singapore as a result of recent
immigration.

6. Embassy Singapore's point of contact for this topic is
Political Officer Jeffry W. Duffy. Follow-up questions, if
any, may be directed to him at duffyjw@state.gov.

Visit Embassy Singapore's Classified website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/singapore/ind ex.cfm
SHIELDS

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