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:-
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. All mails will be treated with the strictest confidence.