TL;DR – By the way, Malaysia is about to have their own GE soon.
Singapore is about to elect our next President. This Presidential Election (PE) is contentious because it is reserved for members of the Malay community.
And, hardly surprisingly, some people in our neighbour up north has seized this issue to attempt to stir racial sentiments in Singapore.
A Malay-language newspaper in Malaysia Utusan Malaysia, in a recent commentary, had described the Elected President’s role in Singapore as merely symbolic, and as such, not something that the Malay community should be proud of. As if that’s not bad enough, the article went on to say:
“(the Elected President’s post) has been dominated by non-Malays. Perhaps it is because the non-Malays in Singapore have been given priority and advantages in whatever fields, that the Presidents concerned did not have to struggle to think about the fate of their own community.”
And this was the absolute clincher:
“the (Malay) community has often regarded itself as being sidelined in its own country.”
Singapore’s High Commissioner responds
Singapore’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, Mr Vanu Gopala Menon, had written to rebut those claims.
He pointed out that it’s wrong to say that non-Malays in Singapore have been given ‘priority and advantages. He said:
“We certainly do not have a race-based system of benefits and patronage.”
That is very different from Malaysia, where there is a race-based system of benefits and patronage. Under that system, the Bumiputra (which includes the Malays) get all sorts of benefits and special privileged treatment. Despite not having any benefit or special privileged treatment, the Malay community has achieved significant social and economic progress within Singapore’s rules-based and meritocratic society”.
Mr Menon also highlighted:
“We are, as a nation, proud of these accomplishments, and we will achieve further progress together.”
Why would Utusan Malaysia make such claims?
What do they stand to gain by trying to stir up racial sentiments in Singapore? Well, Malaysia is due to have their GE soon. It’s almost becoming a common practice for some parties to use race as a campaign platform. And when it comes to race, it’s inevitable that they’ll point to Singapore.
Or sometimes, they just need a bogeyman. So who are they gonna call? Singapore, of course. We’re near, we’re small, and we’re friendly and nice enough with them so ‘we will understand and forgive them anyway.’
It’s something that Malaysia has done since the 1960s. It was one of the main reasons why Singapore left Malaysia. Because we are committed to a Singaporeans’ Singapore, one where all Singaporeans, regardless of race, language, or religion, can work together to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for ourselves and our nation.
As Mr Menon emphasised:
“Singapore will not tolerate the use of race or religion to promote ill-will between different segments of Singapore society, or to undermine our institutions.”
Indeed, we need to expect certain people in Malaysia to bring up these issues from time to time. But we cannot let that divide us. And perhaps Utusan Malaysia should be reminded of the words of their founder. He once said:
“No man need feel that to belong to a particular religion puts him at a disadvantage or gives him an advantage… This is how things are in Singapore and this is how things must always be in our country. Only in this way can a multiracial society like Singapore live in peace and prosperity.”
Wait, why did the founder of Utusan Malaysia speak that way of Singapore? Because the Utusan Malaysia was founded by Yusof Ishak. You may recognise that name.
He was Singapore’s first president.
(Featured image via TODAYonline)