Dr Tan Cheng Bock and Singapore wait patiently to hear the outcome of his court Appeal. In the meantime, this EP affair raises issues of race into the public space which would not normally happen. In the spotlight is the Malay community to which I belong. I list down below some stark questions that must be addressed.
1. This EP is a selective show of grace to the Malays and a categorical admission by the Government as its very justification for it, of systemic racism existing in society which it had for 50 years instead chosen to robustly deny and castigate any such insinuations. Surely this deserves rigorous debate and discussion now as it undermines all its previous claims of an exemplary uncompromising upholding of fair play and meritocratic values.
The government must now answer to the Malays as to where and how did these systemic racism happen under its watch for more than 50 years and what action must now be taken beyond tokenism to correct the injustices to the Malays and even consider an offer of reparation where necessary for such condoned systemic racism.
2. With the EP set to be reserved for Malays only, Singaporean now come to know that the Malays only provision is technically not strictly for them alone. An appointed committee get to decide on the ‘Malayness’ of a potential candidate which it seems will embarrassingly most likely be among those that are genetically more a non-Malay than one. Suddenly this graceful act of the Government seems odd and amiss. It raises the sensitive question of a structural failure of the Malay leaders that the government had chosen and invested in for more than 50 years for being unable to produce even a single qualified true blue Malay of such respect and financial standing.
A truly damning indictment of the collective failure of the community and its leadership. Just a cursory survey of other minority groups successes in the form of dominant community based businesses from little India to even the little Manila in Lucky Plaza surely raises fundamental questions of why the Malays are so unsuccessful after the amount of money spent by the Community based organizations funded healthily by the Government in leveraging on the community’s talent pool and community assets in the last 50 years. Even the bazaar in Ramadan are still not owned by the Malays today.
3. After 50 years the Malays who has the best performing fertility rate of all the races has a population decline as compared to the other races. The Government has openly admitted to its policy of maintaining the dominance of the Chinese race against natural growth by resorting to all means of compensating the shortage of numbers by artificially importing to shore up the declining number of Chinese. Is this policy truly serving the intend of our country’s constitution and supported by the multi-racial make-up of our country or a remnant of past leader’s paranoia that should have outlasted its relevance and by now thrown into the dustbin of our country’s history.
This EP sadly, reflects more of a reluctance to embrace the natural growth and maturity of our multi-racial people by allowing all races to proudly claim their respective spaces in society while trusting and respecting one another. The natural process of building our multi-racial society are best served by organic interactions and honest adjustments and accommodations by all races in all sectors of society rather than the symbolic expensive unnecessary public exercise such as the reserved EP provision which helped a sole technical Malay while the majority Malays remain in the status quo.
4. Constitutionally, the race is recognized as indigenous as spelled out under article 152 of the constitution. This constitutional privilege by right would have accorded the race as better off after 50 years but instead the above examples clearly suggest that this constitutional provision may not be so good to the community for some reasons. It therefore deserves an honest debate and discourse to review this provision to scrutinize its real value in uplifting the community or undermining it after 50 years of our independence.
5. Within the community, there had been several calls, attempts and initiatives at addressing the clear leadership gaps that has rendered the Malays seemingly unable to truly deal with all its community issues and needs holistically and collectively. Individuals and groups that came forward before to offer critical but constructive engagements and ideas have time and again been sidelined and rejected for some fear that the Government clearly has to any possibility of undermining its set of chosen and preferred Malay leadership.
It is indeed pass its time that the Government adopt a more open, less controlling and skeptical of any independent community based ground up efforts coming from within the Malay community. It must abandon its past suspicion that imply some inherent loyalty defect that the Malays somehow collectively has, especially if they are not aligned to the Government. This distrust has caused many talents and resources within the community being left untapped and ignored sadly for political reasons.
Personally, as a Malay, I am against this reserved EP but under the current state, it seems a foregone conclusion and little else can be done to stop it unless a miracle happen to allow Dr Tan Cheng Bock his last shot for the EP. More critically, I have raised the above points and urged Singaporeans and the Government to capitalize on the issues now in the open and willingly engage objectively to address the deeper fundamental issues of race relation squarely in the spirit of our multi-racial nation with all its potential to be truly embracing our collective diversity with full respect and dignity as provisioned and guaranteed by our beloved Singapore constitution.