MM LEE ‘S MUCH AWAITED COMMENT ON THE MALAYS IN SINGAPORE
– Special rights of the Malays will always be protected
MM Lee’s defends of Malay indigenous positions in Singapore will have a very long and profound effect on local and regional developments. The comment is a much awaited assurance from the government amid much changes and developments that Singapore is undergoing especially with the influx of foreign talents and immigrants and the drop in the Malay population in Singapore. Such strong statement from MM would undoubtedly erased feelings of uncertainty among the Malays on the attitude of the government and the extent of their commitments towards honoring the Article 152 of the Constitution.
In 1988, Mr Lee Kuan Yew had earlier defended the Malay language when he iterated that Malay language must be maintained as the national language of Singapore because it is symbolic and represented our history:
“Bahasa Melayu harus kekal sebagai bahasa kebangsaan. Bahasa Melayu dalam lagu kebangsaan dan bahasa perintah semasa berbaris dalam SAF. Jika keadaan adalah sebaliknya, ia akan menghancurkan semangat Melayu di Singapura. Ia adalah simbolik. Ia mewakili sejarah kita. Biar kita kekalkannya. Ia telah berjasa kepada kita. Sekiranya ia diubah sebagai persediaan bagi satu generasi baru yang tidak belajar bahasa Melayu di sekolah-sekolah, ia akan menghancurkan semangat Melayu dalam Singapura” (Lee Kuan Yew – 22 January 1988)
Regionally, MM’s commitment toward the Malays in Singapore will also alleviate worries that the Malays as minorities are at a disadvantage in Singapore. It will open up eyes that have closed for almost 44 years. The region will have a new perception towards the ruling government and will ultimately respect the fact that Singapore Malays are different and unique because they were brought up by a different and unique parenthood. More importantly, Malays in Singapore are not deprived of their rights and history as indigenous of Singapore.
This Hari Raya will indeed be a special one for the Malay community in Singapore as they celebrate it with ease and confidence.
MEDIA REPORTS 20 August 2009
Lead and extensive reports noting the rebuttals by MM Lee and Minister/Education to the arguments by NMP Viswa Sadasivan calling for equal treatment for all races according to the principles of the National Pledge.
MM Lee’s Comments
Reports noted that MM drew the House’s attention to Article 152 of the Constitution, which stated that the Government must recognise the special position of the Malays, “the indigenous people of Singapore”, and safeguard their political, educational, religious, economic, social and cultural interests and the Malay language. MM highlighted that as Malays had progressed and more had joined the middle class with university degrees and professional qualifications, Mendaki had been asked to convince them to not exercise their special rights of free education at university, so that the money could be used to help more disadvantaged Malays. Hence we were trying to reach a position where there was a level playing field for everybody but this would take a long time. MM added that it would not be possible to rely solely on the Chinese or Indian ministers to deal with sensitive issues facing the Malay-Muslim community, such as teenage pregnancies, without triggering racial sentiments.
Reports also highlighted Minister/Education’s comments that the government had adhered to the tenets in the National Pledge over the past 50 years of self-rule and had been defending these ideals in building the nation. He opined that the future that NMP Viswa prescribed for Singapore was one with more political parties, more newspapers that could print what they liked, and the re-politicising of schools and universities, which implied staging of “public rallies whenever they wanted on whatever topics they liked”.
These prescriptions were taken from other democratic models, mainly in the West but also in Asia – in the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand. He noted that before adopting these models, we needed to ask if these countries had done better than us and why they were struggling with problems which had hindered their progress. Minister added that Singapore would ensure that all our citizens could have, amongst other things, good education, affordable healthcare and enough for their retirement.
ZB additionally carried a commentary by Yap Pheng Hui, who noted the applause from PM Lee, the other cabinet ministers and PAP MPs present in the House in support of Minister’s speech. He opined that this was evidence that Minister’s comments represented the Government’s strong stand on the issue.
Get a clear understanding of our “starting point” (ZB Editorial, 20/8, p15)
Editorial on the debate on nation-building tenets noted MM Lee too joined in the debate yesterday to ‘bring the House back to earth’ on the issue of racial equality in Singapore, while Minister also rebutted Mr Viswa’s arguments from a macro point of view.
Editorial opined that one had to acknowledge that no matter how ill-founded Mr Viswa’s points were, they could possibly represent the views of some people. This was because what Mr Viswa reflected was the philosophy of “conventional practices of democracy” described by Minister. We were bound to see all kinds of unhappiness and faults if Singapore was measured by a Western democracy yardstick.
Editorial noted that MM Lee drew the House’s attention to the Singapore Constitution which stated that the Government must recognise the special position of the Malays, the indigenous people of Singapore. Noting that this “starting point” and “fundamental” had indeed been neglected by most Singaporeans, editorial thus opined that the Parliamentary debate triggered by Mr Viswa’s speech over the past two days had a positive impact to a certain extent as it allowed Singaporeans the opportunity to once again recognise the “starting point” and aspirations of Singapore’s pioneer generation.