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The current system is placingunnecessary obstacles in the way of the Malay community and thwartingits progress in society. As a result, Singapore is not only notdeveloping its full potential but also losing a integral part of ournational identity.$CUT$
This matter was raised at the SDP’slaunch of our Malay policy paper A Singapore for All Singaporeans:Addressing the Concerns of the Malay Community.
Party Chairman Jufrie Mahmood said thatthe situation needed to be discussed at the national, instead of the communal, level because Malays in Singapore are first and foremostSingaporeans. Furthermore, the Singaporean identity can only be strengthened ifwe stop compartmentalising ourselves into separate races as the PAPis wont to do.
Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan thenpresented 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 educationwhich Dr Chee pointed out is the key to overcoming the problems thatSingapore Malays faced. Education is what is needed for socialmobility, something that is lacking in the present system.
He cited the median householdincome in 2010 for the Malays was $3,844 while they were $5,100 forChinese and $5,370 for Indians.
Many conclude that this is becauseunder a meritocratic system in Singapore where reward is dispensedaccording to ability, the Malays are less capable and therefore donot earn as much.
The situation is less straightforwardfrom what it appears, Dr Chee pointed out. Take, for example, the award of Public ServiceCommission (PSC) scholarships: Of the 380 awarded holders between 2009 to2013, only 6 (1.6 percent) were Malays. Of the 288 President’sScholars given out between 1966 and 2012, only two were Malays.
Under PSC guidelines, however,candidates for the awards must “refrain from participating in activitieswhich are, or are likely to be, inimical to the interests or securityof Singapore.”
Given the views of Government leaderswho have questioned the loyalty of Singaporean Malays to Singapore, could theselection of scholars have been prejudiced against the community?
Another indication that Governmentpolicy may be the factor behind the “poor performance” of theMalay community is the given in the figure below which shows that thenumber if medical graduates decreased dramatically around the late1950s 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 areawarded in an exemplary manner, the SDP’s paper proposes that theGovernment must reiterate its stand that it does not condone any formof discriminatory practices in the Public Service.
In addition, the PSC must conduct its selection processes in a transparent manner bysubmitting a report to Parliament, detailing their evaluation and justifying their selection of the award recipients.
It is imperative that the public haveconfidence in the PSC and scholarship selection committees when itcomes to choosing our state scholarship holders.
Another issue that the paper takes up isthe impact of economic disparity on the community. One-fifth of Malayhouseholds live on $1,500 a month or less. Such conditions, apartfrom exerting heavy financial pressure, exact a toll on families andchildren which often lead to the breakdown of family units which, inturn, affects educational progress and gives rise to criminalbehaviour (nearly 50 percent of drug abusers are Malays).
Poverty also affectshealth and, since Malays are disproportionately represented in the lower-income groups, it retards the overall functioning ofthe community. For example, a low-income mother with poor nutritionis likely to give birth to a baby of low birth weight and this couldaffect the child’s learning abilities in later years. Also,children with poor nutrition are less alert, curious, and less ableto interact.
To minimise such adverse conditions,the SDP plan advocates the introduction of minimum wage andretrenchment benefits to alleviate the circumstances of needyfamilies. The SDP’s National Healthcare Plan – which chargeslow-income families minimal rates for healthcare – will also givesuch 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 therise. An immigration consultant in Singapore said that 30 percent ofhis 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.