The need for real political leadership within the Malay-Muslim community

Jufrie Mahmood

It is not difficult to understand why
the SDP organized the
Malay Forum last weekend received the
overwhelming response that it did. The Malay-Muslim community have
had to put up with all sorts of discriminatory policies for far too
long with too little being done about it by
PAP-appointed leaders.

Malay Singaporeans are being led by
three categories of leaders. At the top are the PAP anointed
personalities who claim to lead the community. Unfortunately, many of
them have concluded that their priority is to serve the interests
of the PAP rather than that of the community.

So when the crunch comes it is a
foregone conclusion as to where their loyalty lies.

Next in line
are the community leaders,
most of whom occupy positions with the blessing of the PAP.
role is basically social in nature. They spend most of their time
looking after the welfare needs of the community and indulge in
never-ending fund raising activities.

They are in fact taking over a large
portion of the government’s responsibility to look after the needs
of the poor and underprivileged within the community. Of course, they
steer clear of politics.

The last category comprises religious
leaders, many of whom earn their positions by providing spiritual
guidance through religious classes conducted at mosques and

By and large they are apolitical though
attempts have been made from time to time to get some of them
support the authorities. In any case, they are kept on a tight leash
by the government-appointed Muslim Religious Council.

As can be seen there is a clear void
when it comes to real political leadership. The community simply has
no alternative. Perhaps they see the SDP as a party that can provide
them with the platform and the alternative that they had longed for
all this while.

So they came to see for themselves
whether or not the party which has a reputation for championing the
rights of our citizen can be counted on to take up the grievances of
the community.

The audience was made up of many young
and educated Malays who admitted that it was the first time they had
attended an opposition organized forum. Even officials from Mendaki,
the Malay Muslim self-help organization, and the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) were in the audience.

The non-Malays in the audience who
stood up to speak, voiced their agreement with the SDP’s position
that the Malay problem should not be the sole concern of the Malays
and it is best resolved at the national level with input from the
other races.

Many went away impressed with the SDP’s
ability to conduct a forum on issues considered sensitive in a very
professional and dignified manner. The feedback, especially from the Malay-Muslim public, as well as those online were mainly positive.

It is their hope that this initiative
would not be a one-off event. Many want to know what is the next step
and whether the SDP would be doing a follow-up to find solutions to
the many problems that had been brought up.

It is tragic that the government
Berita Harian, the only Malay-language newspaper in Singapore, blacked out the news on this historic SDP forum. The
reporter was there but cited “editorial decision” for the report
not published. This is nothing short of scandalous.

Nonetheless, the SDP will proceed to
deliberate on the issues with the aim of finding workable solutions. Wherever possible we will try to get input from, and the cooperation
of, qualified individuals and organizations. We shall present our
proposals at another forum which we hope to organize at the beginning
of next year.

Jufrie Mahmood is Chairman of the Singapore Democratic Party