The crux of the matter is that not all Singaporeans have reached a political maturity level where they will vote based on performance and not who the individual is and what ethnic group he or she is from. We are still far behind in terms of achieving an environment where Singaporeans of different political association can have a decent discussion or debate without having to stoop to a low level tactic of character assassination when we disagree. A tour of many social chat rooms discussing about politics in Singapore demonstrate how some Singaporeans embark on individual character bashing instead of debating on issues at hand without having to feel responsible for the comments they made. I believe the legal term is defamation.
As to whether Singaporeans will vote based on performance of an individual rather than his or her race – I don’t think that will happen in the next 2 or 3 generations. Different individuals from various ethnic group will have their own personal experience dealing with other members of a different group but to illustrate my argument, I will relate my own personal experience as a Malay Singaporean. During my undergraduate years in the US, I took the initiative to set up a Singapore Society for Singapore students. From ground zero to a point where we had enough Singapore students to call for the General Meeting, I was doing all the planning and execution of setting up the entity. Being the Founder, I was nominated to be elected as Chairman of the Society and to ensure that we had a democratic process of electing the leaders of the Association, we had an election. Being the only Malay student from the group, I was not able to garner the votes I needed to be elected as Chairman and lose out to a candidate who spoke the dialect of the majority and shared many cultural commonality. To me it was an introduction to Singapore Politics 101 – be pragmatic and stop the wishful thinking that people will vote based on your credentials only. In Singapore, people voted based on the party banner and who the candidate was in terms of commonality – dialect, race and culture. Having said that I believe that there are level headed Singaporeans out there who will vote a candidate based on his/her ability and not on his/her race or ethnic group. But the numbers are just too small to make a difference. I strongly advocate that we keep the GRC system in place to ensure that Malays and other members of a minority group get voted to represent their community’s interest. The GRC system has worked well to ensure political stability and more importantly racial harmony in Singapore. To me, those outcomes are priceless compared to the rhetoric argument of giving equality to all ethnic groups – we are just not ready for it.