Multiculturalism, not PAP’s race-based policies

James Gomez

The changing racial demographics and rise in inter-ethnic marriages clearly point to the need to move towards a truly multicultural Singaporean Singapore where policy making is not race based.

Genuine multiculturalism in Singapore should extend equitable status to different ethnic and religious groups when it comes to policy making whereby no one group is seen to receive any undue advantage.
In 2010, according to Singapore Statistics, of the 5,076,700 Singapore residents, 1,846,000 or 36% were non-Singapore citizens. In 2009 of the 26,081 marriages registered, 18% were inter-ethnic marriages and it is a rising trend.

In spite of these hard numbers reflecting demographic changes in Singapore and the ground reality of a globalised citizenry, the PAP government continues to take a colonial era race based approach to key policies.

And the PAP government continues to be regressive. It has now introduced additional and complicated double-barrelled classifications (effective 1 Jan 2011) that serve no policy or national unity purposes.

The PAP government’s latest efforts to introduce double barreled racial classifications will only further point to ethnic differences in Singapore.

The complexity of modern Singapore requires that existing racial classifications be eliminated instead of introducing new and further classifications.

Race classifications and the implementation of racially based public policies currently in operation are a relic of the past. They breed an undercurrent of structural racial discrimination in public instituitions and the work place that is not clearly visible in policy terms. It also perpetuates a majority-minority syndrome in Singapore.

As a first step towards genuine multiculturalism, the SDP proposes the following changes:

  • “Race” in identity documents. Remove compulsory race classifications in identity documents. It can be optional if desired, but will have no bearing on public policy. 
  • Ethnic based self-help groups. Consolidate them into a broad non-ethnic based national assistance programme.
  • Racial quotas in public housing. Remove racial quotas and give people a free choice over where they want to live.
  • Group Representation Constituencies (GRC). Eliminate the GRC, and make elections politically and racially barrier free.

Race based policies take up resources, time and energy and distract us from the real issues that face Singapore. What is important to note is that 50 years of PAP’s race based policies have not brought us closer. Racial considerations should be done away with in all aspects of public policy.

In particular, those policies highlighted above that currently have a racial component to their implementation.

The Singapore Democrats will continue to speak up on this issue and other policies that breed discrimination in Singapore. The practice of race classification and race based policy making is out of synch in today’s globalised world.

We can no longer afford PAP policies that only highlight our differences, instead of our commonality. Otherwise as a society we are finished.

Dr James Gomez contested in the 2006 GE. He recently joined the SDP. He is also the Deputy Assiciate Dean (International) of the Arts Faculty at Monash University.

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