This references a remark Mr Koh made in October, wherein he called Singapore “a First World country with a Third World people.” In the October speech, professor Tommy Koh said... "Singapore has many first-rate aspects such as a dynamic economy and excellent quality of life, but that some of our habits as a people did not match those standards."
In the column in the Straits Times on 22 Dec 2019, professor Tommy Koh said he wish to focus on what Singaporeans must do in order to qualify as a First World people and suggested that Singaporeans must first pass the following tests:
TEST NO. 1
The first test for Singaporeans to pass is to stop littering. First World people such as the Japanese, South Koreans and Taiwanese do not litter. In fact, they will pick up litter and dispose of it. They will also confront litterbugs and put peer pressure on them to pick up the litter. Professor Tommy Koh said he noticed that in recent years when he look around Singapore today, I see trash everywhere.
The second test is to have public toilets that are as clean as those in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
Singapore's public toilets used to be filthy. The situation has changed for the better because of the joint efforts of a non-governmental organisation and the Government. Professor Tommy Koh felt that even though about 70 per cent of the public toilets in Singapore have been given stars. But the remaining 30 per cent, found in markets, hawker centres, coffee shops and even some restaurants, are still very Third World. A First World people should know how to keep their public toilets clean.
TEST NO. 3
The third test is the test of civic-mindedness and good manners. What are some basic good habits Singaporeans have forsaken? I think many Singaporeans have forgotten how to say "Please" and "Thank you". He saw scenarios where Singaporeans rush in without waiting for those inside the lift or train to make their exit first and some young Singaporeans choosing to ignore the priority seating sign and instead sit on seats that are reserved for people with disabilities, the elderly and pregnant women. He also criticised Singaporeans who fail to clean up their tables after their meals, talk loudly on their mobile phones in restaurants and movie theatres or during concerts. In First World countries, people do not commit such inconsiderate behaviour.
The fourth test is the test of cultural literacy. A First World people is a cultured people. In professor Tommy Koh's experience, he felt that cultured people should / should be:
- gracious and kind
- treat those who serve them with courtesy and appreciation
- have an appreciation of culture and the arts
- read books and show respect for our poets and writers
- listen to music, visit our museums and take an interest in our history and heritage
TEST NO. 5
The fifth test is our attitude towards nature and the environment. A First World people should love nature and care for the environment. They should know, for example, that climate change poses an existential threat to Singapore and the world. Professor Tommy Koh felt that Singaporeans show the irresponsible attitude towards food and water by wasting them. Food waste has risen 40 per cent over the past years, from 568,000 tonnes disposed of by households and the food industry in 2008 to around 809,800 tonnes in 2017.
While some netizens agree with Professor Tommy Koh many others reject his arguments and draw attention to how those in so-called first world countries behave.
What do you think? Do you agree with him or not? Why?