Tuesday, September 14, 2010

No Race-based Politics in Singapore?

During the launch of NSP Malay Bureau last Saturday, a Malay reporter asked me whether NSP is moving towards "race based politics" with the launch of this Malay Bureau.

My instantaneous response is, "Aren't we living in a political system full of race based politics and policies already?"

Coincidentally, MM Lee was reported talking to foreign correspondent about how Singapore will fall into "race based politics" if we to allow more political liberalization.

Let me get this clear here, Singapore under PAP's rule, has already been engaging race based politics all this while! From the HDB racial quota rule, GRC system to setting up of Mendaki, Sinda, CDAC, all these are race-based politics. Although PAP's Rajaratnam has written the National Pledge on "regardless of race, language or religion", but that is all "Highfalutin ideals" in PAP's eyes!

And the truth is, the ideal of cultivating a "Singapore Singaporean" has been subtly put off because of the recognition of the racial fundamentals of various ethnic groups in Singapore. That is why PAP starts putting up the HDB racial quota rule, set up racially based Mendaki, Sinda and CDAC... etc.

GRC is set up precisely because in PAP's eyes, "minority candidates" (I do not like to use the word minority at all) could not win a single ward seat because of the assumption that the Chinese would be biased and vote according to racial lines. This is in spite of the fact that BOTH PAP's and Opposition's Malays, Indians and candidates of other races have won elections for decades!

These changes are initiated basically because PAP realized that it has somewhat lost some support of the Malay and Indian communities back in the 1980s electoral contests. It wasn't a problem for the 1960s or the 1970s. But when Mr. JB Jeyaratnam started to break PAP's total monopoly of power in 1982 by-elections, PAP started to play the race cards. The high concentration of “minority votes” was considered as one of the prime reason why opposition parties in the 1980s were able to score well. Thus the HDB racial quota rule sets in. GRC was set up. Eventually, racially based organizations like Mendaki, Sinda and CDAC were set up as well.

Thus, I cannot understand how opposition parties could be insinuated as the ones who will go into "race based politics" when PAP has already covered all these racial aspects!

The truth is, any politicians or political parties will not survive politically if one is to concentrate on a single racial issue! This is basically because by being singular racially based, you will lose the support of other races. The ONLY WAY for a political party to win the elections is by winning the TRUST OF ALL RACES!

This is why PAP has gone into multiple race-based system with the set up of Mendaki, Sinda and CDAC. Yes, these are race based, but they are multiple race-based.

Should we be worried about anyone going into race-based politics? Singular race based politics? Apparently not. That would be the most stupid thing for a politician to do. He will not get support from the other races at all! How could he be taken seriously?

I believe most Singaporeans nowadays, regardless of race, language and religion, would not buy that kind of racial rhetoric even from people of their own race. We are an open society with citizens who are exposed to the outside world. We may be concerned about issues that are particularly important to our own racial community but that does not mean that we will go all out to encroach into other races' space.

There are still social or even political problems which are specific to different races. This is something we cannot avoid. This is why any political parties who are serious in the long term political development of Singapore, will have to address it in an open manner. We cannot just pretend differences in race don't exist. But we must always bear in mind that we need to apply fairness and critical considerations in a just and balanced manner to all problems face by different races.

PAP has jealousy guarded itself as the only party that could deal with race based politics in Singapore. Anybody who dares to challenge this position would normally face "demolition" from its leaders. Jufrie and Tang Liang Hong are those special cases for us to examine closely. Incidentally, both of them represented the same opposition party, Workers Party at different point of time. One would wonder how could two "accused" racial (i.e. Malay and Chinese) chauvinists ever serve the same party at all.

Strategically speaking, such deliberate racial divides enhanced by the present the race based political setting, would require any political parties to convince each and every Singaporeans of all different races that they could well represent their interests in parliament, in a balanced way. It is not a simple task to accomplish especially so when PAP has deliberately set the OB markers for all other opposition parties from touching "race based issues" while itself dominates the race based agenda.

As the leader of NSP, I feel the need to address such challenges. Forming the Malay Bureau is my first step towards establishing a party which will be seen as a multi-racial party which will take all views from all races into considerations. NSP must be seen to be the other party which is able to take care of all races in helping them to mitigate or voice out their concerns in parliament in a balanced and responsible way. If I could, I would like to form the Indian Bureau for NSP if I could get critical mass of Indian Singaporeans to join us as well.

The point I want to make here is that, don't be frighten by PAP's scare tactic on "race based politics". As long as a political party is responsible in dealing with all race based issues in a balanced, fair and just manner, there is nothing wrong to be all inclusive in our approach of forming Malay and Indian Bureaus, just like PAP forming Mendaki, Sinda and CDAC.

There might be competing ideas among different races. But I think we should have the wisdom to resolve such differences while working towards our common interests as a Nation.

NSP is definitely not going into a narrow path of singular race based platform. In fact, I asked the reporter one simple question, NSP has always been seen as a "Chinese party" in the past. Won't the formation of the Malay Bureau actually diffuse such racially based perception once and for all? Won't it be seen as more racially balanced if we have Malay Bureau as well as Indian Bureau in NSP? How could we be perceived as "race based" political party when we are in fact moving towards in building a multi-racial political party platform?

If anyone wants to accuse NSP of being race-based party, they should reconsider us as "multi-race based" party.

Goh Meng Seng


Anonymous said...

good article, next time use spell-check..

Anonymous said...

Use a copy editor too

Anonymous said...

GMS, u got spelling probren la lol...attend some english classes then we can talk abt appealing to all races.

Anonymous said...

It's the IDEAS that matter more than spelling. And he has got it spot on! Good article.

Anonymous said...

Mr Goh,

I would like to come bk to the prob of old NS men nt receiving NSRA, wouldnt LHL risk offending these old chaps (pple in their 50s/60s). I understand tht NS was damn bloody shiong in the 60s/70s unlike nw. I mean qian ren zhong shu hou ren cheng liang, only pple in their 20s r getting it nt fair rite.

solo bear said...

I have compiled a list of racist policies by the self-proclaimed non-racist PAP.

Same old broken record from broken Old Man

Anonymous said...

Good article.

In fact, everyone should be on his guard when LKY speaks for he has only one objective - to con you to his way. He has been doing it from day one and should not be allowed to continue.

By the way, no one is more frightened about so called race-based politics than LKY himself and he has precisely translated this into so many policies to ensure that NO RACIAL ENCLAVES exist that would challenge PAP's dominance in any constituency. In fact, his fundamental race-based policy is to DIVIDE AND RULE!

DocSide said...

Hmm, race is a tough one. I don't know of any multiracial society that is truly at peace despite important strides. part of the problem is that economy in Singapore shifted over the past decades from a euro centric to sino centric model. There have been powerful changes, my own mother who was educated by convent schools and only learned mandarin as an adult would now say things like we have lots of such and such in china. That is entirely shocking to me, china is interchangeable with Asia, southeast Asia and even singapore in the minds of many Chinese-singaporeans. They are disinterested in their Malay or Tamil neighbors at best. The millions of recent immigrants compound these issues. You don't find many Chinese school children learning bahasa or tamilan, yet our histories have been entwined for almost 200 years now. Surely that is enough time to develop as our own people perhaps along the lines of a multi-canton Swiss federation. The breakup of ethnic enclave is tragic in that sense. Before geylang serai and serangoon were transformed into saccharine caricatures, my Malay and Tamil neighbors have warmly welcomed my interest in their culture and respect for their identity and religion. Whenever I frequented their businesses they were more than hospitable and gracious. So what happened? PAP policies made Chinese-singaporeans more Chinese at the expense of our past diversity.

Coffee_Addict said...

We just had an open debate regarding this topic a week ago and I was shocked to know that despite their high education, some students were still confined by notion that Singapore cannot do without raced-based politics. Worse still, a student specifically pointed out an age old example of the Malays not being able to join certain areas in the army and agreed to such a move. I thought Singaporeans have grown up after all these years, looks like I was wrong. It was truly disappointing.