Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Tuesday January 15th 2019

Malay Engineer Works in Australia Due to Racial Discrimination in Singapore

This article first appeared here on 2 Dec 2010.

We have recently posted a few articles on race-bias  discriminatory hiring and a Malay reader, Suzanna,  is kind enough to provide us with the following online interview:-

Can you state your race, age and educational qualifications? Where are you currently living now?

I’m a Malay, age 32  and working as an Engineer in Australia.

You have mentioned that you have been discriminated back home in Singapore, can you relate some incidents?

During one of my interviews, the lady who interviewed me told me that she wanted a Chinese – why interview me if she have already made up her mind?

In my previous employment , the meetings were conveniently held in Mandarin, barely an English word was spoken. In my mind, its similar to withholding information from me to do my job. Its also work discrimination at its worse.

Is  such discrimination only job-related or  are there other variant incidents? Please specify.

I have been told by my friends in school that Malays are lazy. In which, they explained to me, still under one breath that I am different and I am not a real Malay. Which did not matter either way, as I still felt offended.

My sister  was told, during an interview by the owner/interviewer, that she did not trust a Malay as an accountant. I have no idea why she interviewed my sister and offered her the job later on.

Do you think that Singapore has equal opportunities for all as  we are a meritocratic society without giving any preference to any race?

No. Pretty sad and disappointing to the point of disillusioned. I have pledged everyday earlier in life, “regardless of race, language or religion” and I personally don’t know what to make out of it now. It’s not real.

Comparing Singaporean and Malaysian Malays, what do you think is the main difference here?

We, Singaporean Malays often think that Malaysian Malays are less motivated than us. Maybe we have been conditioned by the Media or perhaps trying to set ourselves apart from them to make us look better. My perception changed recently when I came to know a driven hard working Malaysian Malay that is just as motivated and even more talented than any Singaporean that I have known.

I have long realised even when I was living in Singapore that each community/race has their good and bad. Its the individual that we should judge and not the race/nationality. Working abroad just simply reinforced the opinion.

The main difference is not between us and them. We are the same – still human. The main thing that can make a difference is to change our own perception.

Are you happier now in a foreign country than back home in Singapore? Why so and do you plan to return home some day?

I am happier living in Australia. I feel I have a better quality of life. Frankly, there is no love lost about leaving Singapore. You have nothing much to lose if you have very little. The ties that bind me are just my family/friends. Nothing else. I will most definitely prefer to be a second class citizen in a foreign country rather than a second class citizen in my own country!

I do plan to return at some stage as I am very close to my family and now that my parents are getting older, I will like to spend more time with them. Not a single day in my life here that I don’t think of my family. I always feel that I am sacrificing a big portion of my life for the sake of career/better life.

I felt that the situation in Singapore is getting from bad to worse. Even if I do return home, it will be very hard to work under the system/policies that I can’t trust and believe. I have heard the same complaints before I left for good. Only know  that now we have the Foreign Talent issues. Nothing changes.

A lot of Malays told me not to return. If they have the opportunity, they will want to move out of Singapore too.

What can the government do to improve on work opportunities for the minority races?

Any changes to be effective should start from top down. The government should be working on themselves first to develop a greater sense of accountability, integrity and duty of care. Just by saying aloud the pledge and then doing the opposite is the biggest hypocrisy.

I don’t trust them to work on issues of their own deliberate making. They have known this for a long time. They have practised some form of discrimination themselves. The top politician blatantly mentioned that races are not equal. They have created the model for the society to emulate.

The only way this government can improve the situation is for them to step aside. Its very telling that their policy will never work long term. Democracy and transparency in Singapore are only lip service. In reality, the two words are just hummed into the media to attract foreign investors. Never for their own people, be it Chinese, Malay, Indian or Eurasian. I think the government has lost its way.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate all  good that the government has done so far but we can’t live life on past glory alone. We need to live on the present and for the future. And presently, its not working. I stop short  thinking about the future if this carries on.

If the government is really serious, they would have commissioned one of their ministers who has no portfolio to oversee this and create a healthy platform for all Singaporeans to compete/contribute. They could have done this long time ago..littering, spitting, drugs, chewing gums, are serious offences..so why do they need the citizens to tell them how to manage discrimination within the minority? We don’t need special preferential treatment. Just equal opportunities.

I don’t know what’s the deal about speaking Mandarin to get a job. By the way. English is still a business language. If Mandarin  is the criteria to landing a job, then make Mandarin a compulsory subject and not English. Absolutely ridiculous!

Do you think Singapore should concentrate  on having one homegenous national race e.g.  Singapore Singaporean than Singapore Chinese, Malays, Indians which does not really help in national identity?

Of course, in most healthy countries, they do just that. They regard themselves as their nationality first. It certainly does not help in terms of national identity let alone a sense of pride/patriotism if we are always view as a Chinese, Malay or Indian first. Obviously, to have race in our Identity Card is a form of discriminating one race from the other.

Do you think having specific race-based social welfare groups such as Mendaki for Malays, Sinda for Indians and CDAC for Chinese further segregate the general population?

Similar to the above. Thats what Singapore is known to do and its their intention to segregate in every aspect. Easier to control when you breakdown to smaller portion. Pretty much science in terms of implementation than anything else.  We can see this segregation from HDB flat allocation and  our educational system.

Lastly, what is your sentiment regarding our local Malay politicians? Do you think that they have spoken up for the Malay community in general?

 I believe Halimah Yaacob has the passion. As far as I can tell, I think she is sincere.

Its very hard for me to follow the politics from here. How far the rest can go to speak on this, I am not sure. I hope they have tried their best and persevere. Thats all you can do.

The worst position to be in any party or organization is if you are selected because of your race. Its just as bad as not being selected because of your race.So, I hope the government has selected these politicians based on their merit and passion and not just to fill in the party’s Malay quota.

End of questionaire and thank you.

Editor’s Note: Racial discrimination is a very sensitive issue and we hope that readers will treat this matter with an open mind. It is not our intention to fan up any racial disharmony in this site. If you belong to the minorities races and have being discriminated at the work places,  please email me at gilbert@transitioning.org. All mails will be treated with the strictest confidence.

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Reader Feedback

30 Responses to “Malay Engineer Works in Australia Due to Racial Discrimination in Singapore”

  1. Waepyont says:

    And the Chinese, whether from Singapore, Malaysia or China are mostly likely to sell-out even their own parents to get ahead in life or just to make a quick buck (Loyalty? What Loyalty, it seems…) And that’s a slur I’ve always kept in mind(and to learn from, to break mindsets) when I first heard it from Singaporean Indian and Malay friends during my poly days. I am a Singaporean Chinese; born and bred in Singapore.

  2. Denial Tan says:

    Waepyont:

    Yeap, Chinese are quite selfish people. It is always my Malay friends who are more helpful and my Chinese friends will only help if they feel that you can return a favor.

    However, if you are rich, you will have a lot of Chinese ‘friends’ always willing to help.

    I am also a local bred Chinese.

  3. Ngyx says:

    This is very sad. Both the citizens and the government must do more to stamp out this discriminatory practice.

  4. ohmysingapore says:

    Thank you, Gilbert for this article. I have read the previous article as well and sad to say, yes, there is unwritten racial discrimination in Singapore.

    Of course, the majority will dispute this. Firstly, most will associate racism to what they see in TV (ie. the physical violence, apartheid etc. not the insiduous, dare I say, institutionalised racism like we minority faced in Singapore). Of course, for most part, the minorities do not want to rock the boat by flagging this up and we are taught to accept this as a fact of life when living in SG.

    I myself am working and living in UK. It is liberating to work in a place where there are no pre-conception on the quality of my work based on my ethnic group and if there is any incident of racism, I know I have rights to fall back on, even as a migrant.

    • admin says:

      Hi ohmysingapore,

      I have emailed you requesting a online interview. Please check your mail and thank you for your comment.

      Gilbert Goh

  5. AniSam says:

    well-said! we r in d same boat. living in Australia for 12yrs already. Thanks god!

  6. Hui Xian says:

    Eh… I thought Australians are racist too???
    Or they just hate all Chinese of all nationalities? Hate the Chinese like the Singaporean Chinese hates the Chinese Chinese in Singapore? My friend got it before… She studied in Australia in the past 2 years.

  7. Mohammed says:

    I am a malay and glad that I am no longer living in Singapore.
    I remember the days when I had to work hard and beinging discriminate at work. Imagine working for non-Singaporean Chinese is even harder. I am now an Engineer living overseas and is happy.
    Everytime I visit Singapore. I feel home sick to come back home to my new country. Seeeing my family ongoing the stress live and seeing their stressfull faces makes me sad. ALl of them are millionaires and yest they are only house poor. Sure you are a millionaire but the country sucks your livelyhood.

  8. MALAY DAGGER says:

    I know & has this feeling & look at my surroundings… THEY DO NOT LIKE MALAYS THEY PURPOSELY PUT ALOT OF INDIAN & CHINESE NATIONAL IN SINGAPORE TO GET RID OF THE MALAY RACE !

  9. Zara Garner says:

    Yeah i dont understand Singapore at all. They always wanted Chinese speaking. Chinese staff….that is so unfair. I thought we are living in a country free of racism and should treat each of us equally. I think the pledge that Singapore had has to change! We are no more one united people regardless of race and religions!! NO MORE!!! Sometimes i blame my own race…MALAY but only to realize no race has to be blame. It is the government that needs to be blame!!!

  10. Kev J. says:

    @Zara Garner, the government is to be blamed mainly. I don’t even think that Malays are bearing the main brunt of all these policies now alone. Singaporeans of Chinese and Indian heritage too are just lumped as locals who are to be displaced in favour of “Foreign talent”. Well, if these people come here to sell fish soup, drive our taxis, and even serve as waiters, how talented are they?

  11. Tony Gani says:

    Look at the foreign nationals coming in to Singapore. PRC’s is everywhere and they are communicating and servicing the community without a single english in their heads, and they are not remorseful about it. Eg. Bus drivers. Look at those indonesian maids, they are required to pass the english test as a compulsory assessment to come into Singapore. (1 commit suicide because she fails the english test). This is racial discrimation indirectly from the government. I am going to Perth in a month time, and I hope i can live harmoniously with all races there.

    • Kev J. says:

      @Tony, all the best. I left to study in Canada years back, and although I did not get a PR there in the end, and decided to apply only now, since I am going to be in Japan this year for the next few years on contract, I feel that it is good to leave Singapore for greener pastures and to explore your added options. Keep an open mind, as people will always say, and look out for the good things in every country which you move to! All the best.

      • admin says:

        Hi Kev

        Are you still in Singapore – do drop me a mail if possible. Thanks for all the nice comments on my site.

        Gilbert

  12. joe says:

    These Mandarin speaking chinese in singapore like to force their mother tongue on other races Malays, Indians and Eurasians such as if you don’t learn mandarin prepared to get discriminated in job hiring. They did that even to their own fellow non-mandarin speaking chinese who speaks other dilects and was successful in killing their dialects by forcefully imposing Mandarin language on them.

    To those chinese whose mother tongue is Mandarin, Remember this world does not belong to china. Its the chinese need to accept English inorder to be part of the world not the other way round. We Minorities don’t force our mother tongue on you all, then why you all want force your mother tongue on us. Please stop converting singapore to CHINA STATE.

  13. ed says:

    Good article. I wouldn’t say it’s enlightening as I, amongst all my non-chinese friends, have had to put up with chinese racism for most of our lives. Even chinese friends aren’t really ‘friends’ as they tend not to bother about the interests of other races, are racist themselves in terms of colour, features, etc, do not notice racism when it happens, etc. But in order to ‘get along’, we have to ‘tolerate’ this and put on a smile and take them for the little that they have become due to governmental cultural/racial supremacism.

    Quite a few of my friends have left, and i’m in the process of it myself. You could say that we haven’t become used to 2nd class citizenship, have a healthy respect for ourselves despite media and government efforts, and discrimination by quite a few chinese.

    With regards to malays being lazy. They are not. They just aren’t as opportunistic as most as they hail from a highly communal culture – which the other races would do well in learning from. Hence, unlike the chinese, they do not have an economic ‘siege mentality’ – significantly engendered by governmental exploitation and oppression of the people…as is the case in chinese/singaporean history….which has, as a result, produced a ‘chinese’ culture that makes those socialised within it what they are, and hence think the Malays ‘lazy’. With the chinese standard being taken as the norm, it’s no wonder people believe in the myth of ‘malay laziness’.

    With regards to creating one ‘singaporean race’, there has to first be equal respect, and appreciation – not just ‘tolerance’ – of each other’s cultures. Each culture must be given equal prominence – we shouldn’t be celebrating ‘chinese’ culture as if it is the national culture, whatever the numbers of the people, in relatively prominent locations, chingay, etc.

    It is only when equal respect and appreciation is accorded, can there be enough fusion between races to create a singular singaporean culture that contains the best components of all cultures. Singapore was going in that direction in the 70s and early 80s. The government put a stop to that as they knew that confucianism would buy enough intellectual and perspectival docility amongst the people to get them political longevity. Hence, to just fuse everyone as they are today is to fuse a stronger chinese culture with diluted malay and indian cultures. That would make ‘singaporean’ culture ‘chinese’, not singaporean.

  14. BG says:

    Thanks Suzanna for sharing your story, mirrors my own experience too!

    Felt like a third class citizen in s’pore, feel like a real citizen in my new homeland!

  15. Jai says:

    If everyone keeps feeling the same way and decide the solution is moving to Australia, then who is left behind to try fix anything. Yeah we all know Singapore is having some real acute problems right now. Not just Malays but local Chinese and Indians too. Discrimination is everywhere thanks to alien invasion. Our govt already lost the plot years back and today they are a bunch of clueless idiots commanding huge paychecks.

    We can keep quoting the pledge and complain all we want, nothing will get fixed till we decide to start doing something about it. Running away to Australia won’t help.

    “Treated like a second class citizen in a foreign country is better than in my own country” Pfft!!! Biggest BS really. In other words u’d rather suck up to foreigners no matter how bad they treat u but u won’t stick through hard times in your own country to make her a better place? As if there is no racism in Australia..go out there talk to some Viets and Lebanese and see what they got to tell u about racism.

    *peace*

  16. jeff says:

    Jal,

    change has to start from the top, not us, those with the power and deep pockets. i cannot even feed myself, let alone talk about doing something.

    we can always share ideas, i am interested in your thoughts, there is nothing wrong with seeking a better life elsewhere, like what our ancestors did decades ago, (did they stay on and fight for change?)

    I, for one will be searching a way out of here, hope people can contribute ideas to me

  17. Mark says:

    Hello, I am so uninformed of the issues within Singapore’s government and culturally. I met a woman online from Spore (Malay) and things were going fine on many levels unitl one day she was talking about her work when she has to travel to China. She went off on Chinese people about the dollar is more important than their family and they cannot be trusted and so on. Then it was on to Filipinas..yes she had a very bad incident with some she was dating having an affair with Filipina but then went on to label them as ALL sluts…. I am from the US and sure we have long history of racism..and although covert it is alive and well. I was not sure what to make of her feelings and have not spoken since with her.

    Reading others comments here I do feel more informed and thank everyone. I truly hope your gov can turn this around and make positive steps for solidarity of Singapore.

  18. It’s really a nice and useful piece of information. I am glad that you just shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  19. Kronik says:

    I would advice the engineer to move to Malaysia instead, where she can prosper and be pampered just for being a Malay. Chinese and Malay, they are both the same. Only difference is who is the majority in the country, then you will see their true colors.

  20. lady engineering buddy says:

    I am a Singaporean minority, usually labelled Malay. I don’t mind it at all since my parents chose the Malay language for me to study in school. Proud to be Singaporean, yet perplexed to why discrimination issues arise. Even more so now that there are more foreign talents, making the Malays fade in the background. Almost everything is in Mandarin now, and to a certain extent sometimes I too feel that information is witheld. Can’t help but wonder if things are any better overseas. The only thing holding me back is a glimmer of hope that things will change for the better..

  21. Neshe says:

    Funny that, living and working in China now, I find that the Chinese nationals that most Singaporeans laud as racist, manipulative and terrible people, are the ones who do not discriminate against me, as opposed to to my own birthplace. Of course before coming here, I have my own misconceptions too, due to my own interaction and observation of the Chinese nationals living and working (and also behaving very badly). In the 4 years that I have been here, being a darker skinned person, the race card has only been used on me only once! Back home, I face that kinda nonsense constantly every day of my life. Now, shame on you Singapore!

  22. Paul says:

    I am Caucasian and married to a local Singaporean. I have lived in Singapore for about four years; previously I lived in China, the UK, Canada, and (when I was much younger) Germany and Malaysia. I have visited India a few times and have had friends of many cultures. As with other countries, Singapore is a really good place to live if you have money or you have access to it through a job that pays you fairly; or through a business. As I was not born rich and have (at one time) been homeless, I cannot say that I was born to wealth; I had to work hard my whole life to make ends meet and to put myself through university. But, while Singapore is a good place to live when you have money, as with all other countries it is an awful place to live when you don’t have access to money, credit, or opportunities. Racism in Singapore is a complex subject because the financial power of the country is built on the sacrifices of a majority of Han Chinese; it appears the majority of them gave their lives to build the country. Why, then, should all future generations — including complete foreigners who never helped to build the country — have the same access to credit, money, jobs and opportunities as the descendants of those who fought to keep Singapore from becoming communist? How about those who worked very hard — sometimes dying in the process — to build Singapore into the economic model it is today? If you agree with this premise, you also would have to agree that institutional racism in Singapore is a necessary evil. Today i am facing unemployment again in Singapore after an 18-month contract. I am paid about SGD $4700 a month. While you may feel that is substantial, the work ends after only 18 months; and I have more than 25 years of experience in my field and two earned degrees from Western schools including an M.A. And last, but not leasr, I hold PR (and it is not through marriage).

    My experience here is that it is very difficult for foreigners to obtain a job in Singapore that is fairly compensated (especially a permanent job) and matches the skills and experience of the expat — even as some of the money coming into the country is, ironically — foreign investment derived from outsourced Western jobs and roles.

    I just read an advertisement for a local Technical Writing job (my field). Here are the role’s Requirements:

    1.Preferably with knowledge of SDLC methodology and knowledge of testing methodology
    2.Basic knowledge and/or experience with programming concepts.
    3.Basic knowledge and/or experience with database concepts
    4.Preferably with knowledge with Professional Software Testing tools.
    5.Proven technical writing and editing skills
    6.Proficient computer skills, especially Microsoft Office applications
    7.Strong written and verbal communication skills
    8.Able to converse and understand Mandarin is required.

    The last point, 8. is in BOLD TEXT (in case you are stupid enough to miss it).

    While I agree that Singapore and its iconic but paralytic and parochial government must practice some form of institutionalised racism (for example, the fixed quotas for Chinese employees and Singaporean employees which are clearly there in the legislation; but which may not ever be fully exposed to the Western media eye) in order to control the population and ensure the State remains financially not only solvent but permanently so, I also am aghast at the depth and extent of the racism which is practiced.

    Other countries also practice discrimination (including my home country, Canada) when it comes to hiring foreign talent. However, the ‘racism’ that is practiced in those countries is a thimbleful compared to that practiced in Singapore by the Han Chinese (who are the de facto majority). For example, every year even with significant restrictions, Canada (with a population of 34 million people) accepts about 250,000 NEW MIGRANTS, based on a variety of criteria including employment, marriage, etc. Singapore has a population of about 4.5 million. But it only allows about 60,000 new migrants in every year. This amounts to about 0.1% of the population. Canada on the other hand allows in about 3% of the population every year.

    Clearly, Singapore is practicing a depth and degree of racism by the local powers that be (the Han Chinese) that is far beyond what any other first world western country practices; and this makes it explicitly clear that Singapore is not a democracy of any sort. As with China, Singapore is a country where you cannot ever live free of government domination in every area of your life, and, particularly, in whether or not you will be allowed to hold a job in the country that is equitable with your skills, achievements; and experience.

    In summary, Singapore is not a meritocracy; that is just drivel and crap spouted by the PAP to keep the dumb populace in line. Singapore is definitively not a country that you want to move to if you are not Han Chinese; and stay away from Singapore if you are afraid of manual labor, working for under-the-table money; or being forced to work for pay that is many years behind what it should be. The fact that Singapore in 2014 STILL does not have any minimum wage should be a CLEAR warning to anyone thinking of migrating here that they are unquestionably going to be taken advantage of economically if they ever live here for more than a few years and start paying the already fabulously wealthy Government despots their hard-earned income in the form of CPF (mandatory 20 percent of salary after two years of PR).

    • BruceLee says:

      u were damnnn right paul.. absolutely 159.99% superb! especially all the facts u mentioned in the last paragraph about the s**t the government are doing. only the dumbs and dumbers are still eager to stay & work in singapore and feed the high-corruption politicians to be the world highest paid politicians in the world! and yet, they suck their own people’s blood money and breeding their people into a herd of cattle for generating more incomes and taxes more and more to flow into their corrupted pockets and pretending the country is living in peace and harmony. they smile it sweet all the times in the TV and say we should love our country, be patriotic, and we should love our singapore more than our whores no matter what. but the fact is, people are suffering, crying, and struggling to survive all these days, but they dont give a s**t about ur life, and they dont even care, not even try to get knowing u! all the things that matter to them is purely 100% about $$$$$. it’s all about business, nothing personals..and i had migrated out of singapork long long time ago, pals…coz living out of it, is totally better & worth doing it.

  23. sal says:

    @Paul, why don’t you try find a job in Canada that require your skills? Or why don’t you become Singapore citizens? Maybe you can apply for a government job…..good luck.

  24. mat melayu says:

    Living in USA and loving it. A lot of Mosque and many malay friends. I feel more at home here now with malays all around me.

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