Saturday, February 12, 2011
Honest Talk on Race
It was a tiring but fruitful week right after the Chinese New Year celebration. National Solidarity Party Malay Bureau has successfully conducted its first Malay Reflection Forum on 11 Feb 2011. We have learned quite a number of things through this forum.
The other forum was conducted by James Gomez on 12 Feb 2011 touching on racial discrimination and a preview of his report on the UN Rapporteur visit to Singapore.
In both forums, we had honest talks over racial issues. From religion, social, culture (pop culture), education to job discrimination etc. Yes, we can. We can hold public talk, honest talks over such "taboo" racial issues.
In the NSP Malay Reflection Forum, the very first response from the participants was about "Freedom of Expression" with regards to racial issues, or just issues which the Malay community face in their daily lives. Nobody wants to talk about it, in a constructive way.
We also talk about job discrimination. My take is that while Singapore, as a multi-cultural society, has taken upon Meritocracy as the core value of our system, the government should not get into systematic discrimination. The various talks by the leader of the ruling party about what race cannot hold what jobs is least helpful to enhance the bonds between Singaporeans of all races. It is not helpful for them to declare "We are not ready to have an Indian Prime Minister" or "We cannot have Malays as machine gunners, air force pilots, generals" etc. My position is that we need to set up an Equal Opportunity Commission to look into discriminative practices in employment. As a Chinese, the so call "majority", I also feel discriminated when job advertisements open declare that "PR and Foreigners preferred"!
In the forum conducted by James Gomez, the issue about HDB Ethnic Quota was raised again by the well known human rights lawyer M Ravi. He has asked me about this question back in TOC Face to Face forum in December 2010 and my answer didn't satisfy him. Thus this issue was raised again.
My stand is that the HDB Ethnic Quota should stay but it could be modified or relax by have a range of not more than 50% for "minority races" and not more than 85% of Chinese in any precincts. It doesn't sound good to human rights activists who will still maintain that this is "discriminative" rules which disadvantaged the minority races in terms of lower sales values of their flats etc.
I have explained that congregation and segregation of different races will not do us good. An Australian couples whom I met have praised Singapore's HDB Ethnic Quota because of their experiences back in Australia. In Australia, when left alone, the various different races congregate and segregate themselves. Racial tension increased due to such setting.
As a student from a SAP school which is predominantly a "Chinese school", I have experienced first hand how racist stereotyping could arise when a single race congregates together.
Thus, I have to make the difficult political stand to keep the HDB Ethnic Quota in a modified form, to cushion the impact on the minority races. Of course there are both people who agree and disagree with me on this issue. I would agree to disagree.
Issues on Thaipusam and MM Lee's remarks on the Malay community were raised as well, by Mr. M. Ravi. Well M. Ravi has, unconsciously and unintentionally, made a "racist remark" or "racist stereotyping" that Chinese are racist and that, opposition members have not raise objection to these issues.
I have to correct him again. My colleagues, especially Syafarin, who are present at the forum, would have known that I was very upset about the new rules on Thaipusam as well as the remarks made by MM Lee in the new book. I explained that I have issued a statement on behalf of NSP AFTER Thaipusam. I would be putting my party and members AT RISK if I issue a statement BEFORE Thaipusam and any riot happened during that event, the ruling party may take the opportunity to detain us under ISA for "inciting racial riot"! It is a political judgment I have to make.
Having been through these two forums, I must say that all these were discussed in a rational and civil way. I think one of the greatest achievement we have made is to prove to the authorities that sensitive racial issues could be debated, discussed in a very calm and civil way. We have matured intellectually as a people and there is nothing too taboo to be discussed or debated in public forums.
Goh Meng Seng