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
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
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
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.
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
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
in the army and even fewer holding high ranking positions. The Singapore Armed Forces appointed the first Malay general since
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
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
More event photos at SDP’s website photo gallery or facebook photo album.