SDP holds historic Malay discussion in dignified manner

Singapore Democrats

The Singapore Democrats showed how Singaporeans can come together to have a civilised and dignified debate about the situation facing the Malay community in Singapore, an issue that has long been ruled a taboo subject by the PAP Government.$CUT$

And while the standing-room only crowd consisted mainly of Malays, there was a visible presence of non-Malays too. "For this is not just a Malay issue,” SDP Chairman Jufrie Mahmood said, "this is a national issue concerning all Singaporeans.”

The forum was moderated by Dr Vincent Wijeysingha who called for an honest discussion while imploring all present to maintain a respectful tone.

But while the mood of the participants was cordial, it did not hide the fact that there were serious problems faced by Malays. These were exacerbated by the fact that Malay MPs were not speaking up for them.

But Mr Maarof Salleh, former president of the religious Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) and one of the panel speakers, defended the Malay parliamentarians: "It's not that Mr Yaacob Ibrahim (Minister for Muslim Affairs) is not talking, it's those above him who are not listening.”

Another speaker, political science tutor at the National University of Singapore Mr Walid Jumblatt, listed a few statistics showing Malays lagging behind the Chinese and Indians in socio-economic indicators.

For example: the percentage of Malays enrolled in universities in Singapore was 5 percent, compared to 22 percent for the Chinese and 35 percent for Indians.

The median household income for Malays was $3,844 compared to $5,100 for the Chinese and $5,370 for Indians.

Are these outcomes due to a cultural problem or structural problem, Mr Walid posed. He pointed out that two persons who maintained that the problem was a cultural one was Dr Mahathir Mohammad, former prime minister of Malaysia, and Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

He said that both cultural and structural factors matter in explaining the Malay situation and that both the Malay community and the state must be honest about their responsibilities in order to resolve the matter.

Another panel speaker, Mr Abdul Halim bin Kader who is a PAP cadre member, called for unity among the Malays and urged them to work together to advance their standing in the community. He cited the work that Mendaki did to help the Malay community advance educationally.

Mr Jufrie Mahmood cited some policies that discriminated Malays. One, for example, forbade Malay military personnel entering sensitive installations in Singapore.

There were also very few Malays enroled in the army and even fewer holding high ranking positions. The Singapore Armed Forces appointed the first Malay general since independence.

In the education sector, Singapore found its first Malay President Scholar – after more than 40 years.

One question that was brought up repeatedly by the speakers as well as members of the audience was the influx of foreigners. While the Chinese and Indian populations showed significant increases, the proportion of Malays were on the decline despite their birthrate increasing.

This was troubling as this would dilute the voting power of the Malays in their numbers dwindled relative to the other races. A few questioned the motive of the PAP Government bringing in Chinese and Indian nationals.

This matter concerns not just the Malays in Singapore but non-Malays as well. Singaporean of Chinese descent find it hard to relate to the Chinese from the People's Republic of China while Singaporean Indians are culturally alien with immigrants from India.

Overall, the audience seemed restrained in their criticism of the PAP's treatment of the Malays. Many were unhappy with the current situation and wanted to see more being done to level the playing field for the Malay community.

Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan called on members of the audience to come forward to assist the SDP in formulating an alternative policy position for the Malays in order that the community can be integrated with mainstream Singapore.

Presently, the PAP has total control of the socio-political discourse of the Malay community which has resulted in the current problems that they face. An SDP alternative would provide Malays not just a greater say in policies affecting them but also a party which regards them as equals in the Singaporean society.

More event photos at SDP's website photo gallery or facebook photo album

Malay Community Saturday, 08 September 2012 SingaporeDemocrats Print