The current system is placing unnecessary obstacles in the way of the Malay community and thwarting its progress in society. As a result, Singapore is not only not developing its full potential but also losing a integral part of our national identity.$CUT$
This matter was raised at the SDP’s launch of our Malay policy paper
A Singapore for All Singaporeans: Addressing the Concerns of the Malay Community.
Party Chairman Jufrie Mahmood said that the situation needed to be discussed at the national, instead of the communal, level because Malays in Singapore are first and foremost Singaporeans. Furthermore, the Singaporean identity can only be strengthened if we stop compartmentalising ourselves into separate races as the PAP is wont to do.
Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan then presented the major problems that the Malay community faced and the SDP’s alternative solutions to deal with them.
Are Malays less capable?
At the heart of the matter is education which Dr Chee pointed out is the key to overcoming the problems that Singapore Malays faced. Education is what is needed for social mobility, something that is lacking in the present system.
He cited the median household income in 2010 for the Malays was $3,844 while they were $5,100 for Chinese and $5,370 for Indians.
Many conclude that this is because under a meritocratic system in Singapore where reward is dispensed according to ability, the Malays are less capable and therefore do not earn as much.
The situation is less straightforward from what it appears, Dr Chee pointed out. Take, for example, the award of Public Service Commission (PSC) scholarships: Of the 380 awarded holders between 2009 to 2013, only 6 (1.6 percent) were Malays. Of the 288 President’s Scholars given out between 1966 and 2012, only two were Malays.
Under PSC guidelines, however, candidates for the awards must “refrain from participating in activities which are, or are likely to be, inimical to the interests or security of Singapore.”
Given the views of Government leaders who have questioned the loyalty of Singaporean Malays to Singapore, could the selection of scholars have been prejudiced against the community?
Another indication that Government policy may be the factor behind the “poor performance” of the Malay community is the given in the figure below which shows that the number if medical graduates decreased dramatically around the late 1950s and early 1960s:
From 1910-1959, the percentage of Malay-Muslim medical graduates was 6.12 percent of the total number of doctors. From 1960 onwards, this number dropped to 1.96 percent.
Opportunity for fair competition
To ensure that state scholarships are awarded in an exemplary manner, the SDP’s paper proposes that the Government must reiterate its stand that it does not condone any form of discriminatory practices in the Public Service.
In addition, the PSC must conduct its selection processes in a transparent manner by submitting a report to Parliament, detailing their evaluation and justifying their selection of the award recipients.
It is imperative that the public have confidence in the PSC and scholarship selection committees when it comes to choosing our state scholarship holders.
Another issue that the paper takes up is the impact of economic disparity on the community. One-fifth of Malay households live on $1,500 a month or less. Such conditions, apart from exerting heavy financial pressure, exact a toll on families and children which often lead to the breakdown of family units which, in turn, affects educational progress and gives rise to criminal behaviour (nearly 50 percent of drug abusers are Malays).
Poverty also affects health and, since Malays are disproportionately represented in the lower-income groups, it retards the overall functioning of the community. For example, a low-income mother with poor nutrition is likely to give birth to a baby of low birth weight and this could affect the child’s learning abilities in later years. Also, children with poor nutrition are less alert, curious, and less able to interact.
To minimise such adverse conditions, the SDP plan advocates the introduction of minimum wage and retrenchment benefits to alleviate the circumstances of needy families. The SDP’s National Healthcare Plan – which charges low-income families minimal rates for healthcare – will also give such families a much needed opportunity to compete fairly in society.
Worrying levels of emigration
Dr Chee also pointed to Malays emigrating to other countries. As a result of the paucity of opportunity and the disadvantages that they face, many Malays are leaving Singapore.
In 2009, Berita Harian reported that Malay emigration to Australia was on the rise. An immigration consultant in Singapore said that 30 percent of his clients were Malays. Together with the mass importation of nationals from China and India, the percentage of Malays in Singapore has shrunk from 15% to 13.5%.
The change in composition of the native-born Singaporean will not contribute towards the strengthening of the Singaporean identity. The continued marginalisation of the Malays in Singapore will, tragically, speed up the process of the erosion of our national identity. This policy paper is drawn up to prevent such an occurrence.