THE SAGA OVER the Elected Presidency (EP) has again, thanks to the Prime Minister, dredged up the hideous truth that our political system is indefensibly undergirded by racialist and racist thinking.
The official line of the EP rhapsodised about the need for racial harmony and the safeguarding of multiculturalism. The truth, as everyone else who is not a party apparatchik knows, was about ensuring that only the most PAP-aligned of souls helmed the presidency.
In a similar vein, the creation of the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) system was never about ensuring adequate ethnic minority representation in Parliament but rather to further stack the system against the opposition.
An outgrowth of the reserved presidency and the GRC policies require our Malay, Indian and “Other” friends to obtain certification of their race. I find such a practice absolutely abominable. We certify skills, training experience and even livestock. But human beings?
I cringe whenever my party colleagues of minority ethnic descent undergo this degrading process during elections. They have to submit an application asking for recognition of their bloodline and/or racial identity. In return, they get a document certifying who – or more accurately what – they are.
(And they have to do this at every election. Perhaps our bureaucrats think that some strange morphological transformation may occur undetected in between elections.)
This policy is mandated by a majority Chinese-dominated political structure. It is the ultimate humiliation that one ethnic group can impose on another, a practice which I daresay would be unequivocally denounced in civilised societies, societies with a modicum of human decency.
It is a practice that cheapens the individual and brutalises the soul of this nation. It makes us all lesser humans.
But what is even more mystifying is why the Halimahs and Tharmans and Yacobs in the party agree to subject themselves to such abasement. Is there no intellectual spine in these people? Surely they understand that genuine equitable political representation goes beyond the tokenism of reserved presidencies and parliamentary seats.
The reality is that these folks are, first and foremost, politicians and like most politicians, their instinct is to protect their power. The aforementioned schemes allow them to do just that. The wretched practice of certification of minority candidates can be rationalised away or, if not, compartmentalised and placed back in the far recesses of one’s conscience.
But at what point does one draw the line between political fealty and personal dignity? What price does one have to pay and how much of one’s soul does one have to trade to retain that power? What happens when Mephistopheles comes a-knocking to collect what he is owed?
If our race-conscious friends at the PAP are genuinely concerned about fissures that cause ethnic division in our society, they need look no further than their own policies. Policies like our education system where top schools are deliberately moved to affluent districts where the overwhelming majority of Malays do not reside. Or policies that widen income inequality in an economy where a disproportionate number of the Malay community are stuck in low-income jobs without minimum wage. Or policies that stipulate a quota of ethnic minority residents who are permitted to live in any one HDB estate (and thereby constricting the market for them should they want to sell their flats).
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It should not be hard to recall that America elected a black man as its president, Londoners picked a Muslim of Pakistani descent as their mayor and the Irish chose a son of Indian immigrants to be their prime minister. Are we Singaporeans somehow less enlightened and colour blind?
Or is the PAP employing the age-old divide-and-conquer stratagem from its Singapore-is-not-ready-for-a-minority-PM playbook and then mollifying its critics by placing minority politicians here and there?
Singapore needs a leader whose vision of politics looks beyond the pigmentation of our skin. We need someone who calls to us as a race – the human race, who appeals to the noblest spirit of our being, and who inspires the loftiest ideals that we, as a society, possess.
May we find that leader – and soon.