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Sunday July 23rd 2017

Please forgive us – my Malay counterparts


Before the fiasco involving YPAP Jason Neo has died down, there is yet another case of racial taunt involving a national service regular.

Before I go on further, I want to apologise on behalf of my fellow Singaporeans for the hurt that these two cases have caused to our Malay community. Please forgive us…it is not right and very distasteful.

NSF Christian Eliab Ratnam has posted on his Facebook page criticizing Islam. He is pro-Israel and a Jewish supporter.

The same thing happened to Jason Neo but it was still a mystery why no one complained until recently as the racist taunt was on his page for almost six long months.

Either his Facebook friends couldn’t be bothered or no one dares to raise the alarm for fear of getting involved in a potentially explosive racial situation. Most online racist remarks will involve the law here.

The fact that he is a YPAP youth member further complicates the matter as people may want to politicize the issue for political gains.

Some netizens also commented that if Jason belongs to the opposition camp, the ruling party will spare no mercy in running him down.

Transitioning.org has all along noticed that minorities races are been discriminated when it comes to getting a job in their own country. More than 30% of all our mails received were contributed by displaced job seekers from the minorities races.

Many of them have degrees and some even have masters but yet they find it extremely difficult to get employment let alone a good job.

We have also ran extensive email interviews with Malay professionals over the past few years who have emigrated and they have all complained of racial discrimination particularly when it comes to our hiring practices here.

Malays will be passed over if there is a Chinese applying for the same position and more so if the employer is a Chinese himself.

I have also seen small and medium enterprises filled up by all Chinese workers and it is obvious that they have practised selective discriminatory hiring. Now, they not only have to compete with Chinese local workers but foreign workers for jobs here.

The situation is so serious that when our Chinese PMETs complained that they have been displaced by cheaper foreign workers, some Malays have even commented that it is a retribution for what they have done in the past to the minorities races!

I have all along found out that our racial harmony integration efforts are all in vain.

Some of the government policies and practices go directly against what they have being preaching all along.

For example, we still have race indicated on our identity card, still carry four languages on all our public communication system and allocate our welfare resources to the four self help groups to assist their specific target race.

There is no consolidated effort by our government to really try and bring all the people belonging to different races to recognize themselves solely as one people i.e. Singaporeans.

Though we always speak of racial harmony yet often we practise segregation and divisiveness.

More significantly, minorities races in Singapore are also the only ones in the world probably to be segregated using the housing allocation quota.

Each precinct has a certain quota allocated on a per race basis when they have to purchase a HDB flat and it hurts the minorities races more as they are allocated less quota per HDB block due to their lesser population number.

It was devised by then-PM Lee Kuan Yew who wanted a more spread-out harmonious system of housing allocation so that certain races (notably Malays) will not congregate their resources on one particular precinct.

Areas such as Woodlands, Bedok, Geynag Serai are hotspots for our Malays to congregate as they like to stay close with one another in their kampong-styled community living.

Moreover, years of paranoiac fear from the government that the Malays here will raise up one day and re-unite with their counterparts in Malaysia to turn against our country has hurt our minorities races deeply – both economically and socially.

For a long time, Malays could not serve as pilots in the air forces and certain intelligence branches are off-limits to Malays. This alone has created decades of distrust among the different races – deepening the racial fault lines further.

To gain votes, the government has granted free education facilities to the Malays up to tiertiary level. Despite their vulnerability, their interests are also well taken care of by the government.

Malay ministers and MPs are also seen as lamb ducks and could not speak their mind openly about issues that matter to their own races for fear of antagonizing the top bosses. No one wants to play hero here as that could mean the end of a lucrative political career.

I have long lamented that the minorities races lack a true spokesman in the like of Malaysian ex-PM Mahathir who spoke fearlessly about issues that concerned the country.

Malay centres such as Mendaki and Malay Chamber are so controlled that they could hardly speak a word of dissent without being caught and flushed off  to oblivion the very next instance.

A divided Malay community is also easily managed and politically, they can be manipulated for votes if the situation arises.

We saw how during the previous two general elections, the ruling party has played the race card to great effect.

Even Hitler used the race card well during his tyrannical reign as he locked up millions of well-established Jews during world war two to show that he was championing for the majority of the German people.

The German people closed an eye to such unjust persecution as they felt that their leader had done something for the majority. Many Germens also did not raise any sign of protest when they were sent to the gallows simply because they were Jews.

Perhaps people like Jason Neo and Christian Eliab Ratnam have turned to such racist taunt to make themselves feel superior as indeed one’s spirit goes up when you can bash another fellow countrymen anyhow because of their race.

There is the feel-good effect one has if he could use his majority-race to influence his well being especially if he is on a bad day. Of course, such act is narcissistic and damaging to say the least. It is also cyber bullying at its worst form when used over the internet.

However, all along, I always feel that we may have unconsciously underestimated how ready we can be in tacking such racial issues head on.

We still use the very archaic method of community visit to religious places to enhance racial harmony when a bold step of pushing for more egalitarian practices among the work force may do the job better.

When you can’t even feed you own family because of your race then something is seriously wrong with the country.

Incidentally, I was also very puzzled when the community development centre (CDC) that I worked in a few years ago employed a lot of Malays – filling up almost half of the centre’s staff strength.

This trend was repeated all over the other five CDCs that I knew.

I almost felt like a member of the minority race while working there!

A chat with a senior manager helped me understood the situation better.

I could not remembered the actual conversation that transpired but essentially what mattered is that if the government could not hire them then no one else will.

From then on, I realized how difficult it is for our Malay community to get themselves hired in the private sector. It is also for this reason that my Malay colleagues all stay put in their jobs at CDC even though the work pace could be rather chronic due to the sheer high volume of the work load.

A lack of opportunities at the work front plus their inability to cope with our stressful meritocracy-based educational system mean that the Malay community has being under performing all this while.

More seriously, they have over represent themselves at drug rehab centres and teen pregnancies further alienating themselves from the general population. Their divorce rate has remained high for the past few years indicating that socially all is not well with them also.

Most Malay families also struggled with long term unemployment issues as they could not find alternative work when they were retrenched during the 2008 financial crisis. Obviously, this has adverse implication on their marital situation.

Consequently, the mishaps of our Malay counterparts have caused the majority-Chinese community to view their fellow citizens with apprehension and disdain.

That is probably why many from the minorities races are often being mis-labelled so much so that their employment opportunites are severely curtailed.

Moreover, we should not use the same educational yardstick to measure people from the minorities races.

Though the Malay community is not able to attain educational achievement as well as the Chinese, they are excellent when it comes to starting small food businesses.

Line up along the Eunos hawker centres (next to Eunos MRT) , rows of Malay stalls sell yummy mee rubus and mee siam – serving well over five thousand customers daily.

Those selling nasi lemak at Changi hawker centre have long queues of ironically Chinese customers waiting patiently for 15 minutes at least before their turn arrives to be served. Selling at about $4.00 each plate, I thought that it was money well spent.

All along, I find that it is inappropriate to use our meritocratic educational yardstick to measure how successful a particular race has being faring. Doing so only further alienate the minorities races and more damagingly allow the Chinese to feel superior and proud.

Such unfair practices go contrary against what the government has being preaching racial harmony all along.

Though the Malays may not be educationally as equipped as the Chinese. they can do well in other areas which our government could well explore.

By always harping on how far they have fall behind in their Maths or language skills, it will not help one bit in cementing the current fragile racial tensions here.

I always felt repulsive when such beautiful charts were thrown up in the past showing how well the Chinese have done and how badly our minorities races have fared.

Please forgive us my Malay counterparts! We have wronged you and caused you much hurt…

Singapore has a long way to go before we can say that we have attain racial harmony. When we keep mentioning that we are Chinese, Malays, Indians or Eurasians to one another, we are further segregating ourselves.

The day of true reckoning will arrive when we can say that we are all Singaporeans without adding in the race behind.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

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Reader Feedback

7 Responses to “Please forgive us – my Malay counterparts”

  1. stanton says:

    I know you mean well with this post Gilbert and you do raise many good points, but you also say things that I find terribly offensive, which I know you probably don’t intend.

    “Though the Malays may not be educationally as equipped as the Chinese. they can do well in other areas which our government could well explore.”…..”plus their inability to cope with our stressful meritocracy-based educational system” –

    These lines sounds almost patronizing, and makes it seem like malays are racially or genetically predisposed to do worse educationally, and simply cannot do well educationally even if socio-economic disadvantages were removed. You have to consider that many malays actually do do well edcuationally, and that you cant tar the entire race with the same brush, its terribly frustrating for those who do well and continues fuelling the myth about a cultural deficit inherent in the malay race. It’s a very complex issue but i think we need to stay away for essentialisation and the pitfalls of retrospective statistical reasoning.

  2. Fadil says:

    I am disappointed with the turn of events over the past few days. Notwithstanding the Jason Neo and Christian Ratnam sagas, some of the comments posted by (presumably) Singaporeans show an ugly side of the country that refuses to see the side of reason and mature judgement. Even a spammer has taken the opportunity to post on this article.

    Sad to say, I think there is little hope the Malays can cling on to for mutual understanding between the races…No amount of government policies, quality or rubbish, can solve this tricky situation as the damage has been done.

  3. Fadil says:

    “my”, not “this”. Please excuse the mistake.

  4. [...] Hell yes if you are a sensitive Muslim or a NSP politician trying to score uber lame points apologising on behalf of the non-Muslims for remarks made by others.  Nicole before, now Gilbert? Yawn loudly and scratch armpit on NSP [...]

  5. Mark says:

    I think there is a general lack of ‘interest’ among fellow Singaporeans, particularly the younger generation of people, in current affairs and anything related to culture, languages and politics – be it international or regional. In our pursuit for ‘excellence’ in mathematics and science, we have neglected so much on other subjects such as sociology, literature, history, culture or simply just humility.

    I think, many of us tend to think that we Singaporeans excel in important subjects such as mathematics and science (thus giving us a sense of superiority over others), but we should ask ourselves: how many Singaporean nobel prize holders have we produced in these 2 fields? Are we really innovative and leading in the world in these 2 areas? Compared to other nations’ education system where a great part of their curriculum concentrates on history (eg. Europeans spend a huge chunk of their life studying their history; likewise for Chinese, Koreans, Japanese), and yet these countries are still able to produce impressive results to the world of knowledge.

    I think it is so important to be humble, and get ourselves more exposed not only to the popular “western”/”korean” culture scene, but also to our neighbours’ cultures and point of view, so that we can better promote understanding and appreciation of their cultures.

  6. Lee says:

    Gilbert, your conception of Malay discrimination is not wholly accurate.

    I’ve seen quite a good number of Malays in the private sector. Just go to the banks for example, easily you can find them working as customer service officers for example. If you hear that they can’t be hired, it must be a grand plot for them to take advantage of your gullibility.

    It’s wrong to say that they can’t excel academically. All nonsense, quite a lot of Malays in our local Unis as well. In fact, good number of them are professionals. The Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology are a good testament.

    However, they seem to be overtly conscious of their race – thats why racial distinctions can never be eliminated. In fact, they are people that its better to keep away – either they are bad dudes, raving their motorbikes and committing nuisances, or overtly religious people who have sympathies to all sorts of bad causes. (The Israel and Palestine issue for example.)

    I think the discrimination problem pretty much lies

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