Credit: Andrew Loh

Am reading parliamentary records of the debate on the introduction of the GRC system in 1988, and came across this part of the speech by then DPM Goh Chok Tong.

It is his response to the opposition PKMS’ alternative suggestion to the GRC.

I thought Mr Goh’s reply applies to the changes to the presidential election as well, in particular about the Reserved Election for minority-race candidates.

Read for yourself:
Goh Chok Tong:
[PKMS’ suggestion that] we can reserve certain constituencies for Malay
Problem: we accentuate communalism. The Malays will always appeal to Malays
and their sentiments for support. They would be living in separate enclaves.
They would not be integrated into the mainstream of life in Singapore. So
again, we rejected this idea.

Communal representatives to be elected by members of the community, as
suggested by PKMS. Again rejected, because that is communal-based voting.
Each community elects members of its own community. If we do this for the
Malays, we have to do it for the Indians, and others. We have to do it for
the Chinese. Then we slip into the Cyprus model where the Greeks elect
Greeks, the Turks elect Turks.

What is the result?

The result is eventual partition of the country because, in order to be
elected into Parliament, the candidates will have to appeal to the emotions,
to the gut feelings of the people within their own community.

If you are a Greek and you want to be elected by the Greek community, you
have to be more Greek than other Greeks. You try and show accommodation to
the Turks, you will not win any election. If you are a Muslim and a Turk and
you want to be elected to represent the Turkish community, you have got to be
more Muslim, more Turk, than any other Turkish candidates, otherwise you will
not be elected.

Again, this solution was quickly rejected by us.

And Mr Goh spoke again after the Bill had gone through a Select Committee. He
responded to the suggestion made by members of the public, that
constituencies be reserved for Malay candidates.

Mr Goh’s reply:
“Malays will elect Malays or Malays will contest against Malays in reserved
wards. These proposals are discussed in paragraphs 24 to 38 of the Select
Committee’s Report. The Select Committee did not find them to be superior to
the GRC proposal.
“To let Malays elect their own MPs is to perpetuate the practice of communal
politics. It will cause Malay candidates to outbid one another, to prove who
is the champion of the Malay community.

“If they do that, it must cause a reaction, a stiffening of attitude in the
Chinese and Indian communities. And this can only be to the detriment of the
Malay community.”

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