in a live interview with radio station CNA938 Yesterday (June 10), the Minister of Home Affairs and Law, K. Shanmugam, spoke about the recent series of incidents of racial harassment in Singapore.
Last Saturday, a polytechnic teacher confronted an interracial couple on Orchard Road and said Indian men shouldn’t be “taking advantage of Chinese girls.”
A movie recording of the encounter was posted on Facebook, which has since gone viral. His alumni have also come forward to share their accounts of the now-suspended teacher making racist comments and Islamophobic comments in class.
More recently on Wednesday, Facebook user Livanesh Ramu posted a clip of a man performing a Hindu prayer routine on the doorstep of his home, while in the background a woman who appears to be Chinese sounds a gong repeatedly in response. seemingly spiteful.
On top of that, a woman named Catherine Beow Tan, also known as the “Hwa Chong” woman, has made headlines for making racist comments against other travelers on the MRT train.
It was later discovered that she also had a dedicated YouTube channel that perpetuates racism and harassment, which has since been canceled.
Minister Shanmugam said “it is not at all surprising” to see this growing trend of racist incidents. He later recognized that there will always be some level of racism in the community, which is inevitable for any multiracial society. He noted that Singaporean leaders have always recognized the existence of racism here, which manifests itself in three ways: deep racial dividing lines, outright racism and racial preferences.
“If you have preferences and you take them out into the public sphere and express them and make it the norm for others, then I think that crosses the line,” he said.
“You should yell (racism), frown and act when it breaks the law. Because it’s cancerous, it’s divisive, and it undermines the values of our society. “
Racial harmony has made great progress, but are we regressing?
He noted that many government policies have been formed on the basis of the fact that there is racial preference and racism in Singapore.
“The question is, how do we mitigate this to make sure that the meritocracy works and that people of all races have a fair chance?” hey stressed out.
While racism is prevalent here, he feels that Singapore’s racial harmony is definitely not on the razor’s edge.
We have made tremendous progress, there is racial harmony (and) most people accept the norms of a multiracial society. The direction has been positive, but I put a question mark (following) recent events: are we in danger of going backwards? It’s an address that worries me. “
– Minister K. Shanmugam
He added that although racism exists here or in any multiracial society, the frameworks and processes that have been established have helped safeguard racial and religious harmony.
“We have a fairly strict framework in Singapore and the legal provisions are quite strict, but the law cannot always be seen as a solution for all situations.”
“The legal framework is a part of it, but the government and society must work hard to maintain harmony. You cannot simply achieve racial harmony and racial tolerance as an acceptance just by having laws and enforcing them. ” So while laws are important in shaping the framework and foundation, we have to do much more and go further to achieve it. racial harmony.
Everyone must participate in safeguarding racial harmony.
The government undoubtedly has an important role in protecting racial and religious harmony, which is a cornerstone in Singapore.
However, Minister Shanmugam emphasized that society in general, people and even institutions also have a fundamental role to play in this.
It is not a subtraction for Singaporeans to say that I am Indian, Chinese or Malay. … Beyond these (sub-identities), we are also Singaporeans and that is a common identity. We must emphasize this common identity even as we acknowledge (and) accept our individual identities.
We need to have the common vision of building a system based on justice, equality and meritocracy, where everyone can feel equal and protected. The government plays a very important role in articulating this vision.
– Minister K. Shanmugam
He went on to cite examples of how some Singaporeans tend to respond to racist incidents with racist comments of their own, which he finds ironic behavior.
The government emphasizes pointing out such behaviors because if they are not addressed, the next time the tables are turned, the government may be limited in taking action.
“The rule of law means that the law applies to everyone, the majority and the minority alike,” he emphasized.
“Have we applied the law fairly? Do people believe that we are enforcing the law fairly across all races? Are they all protected? If they believe that, people will say that I accept the operation of the law. “
While it appears that racism is on the rise, it is important to understand that this has always been happening, except that social media has now helped shed more light on these matters.
“We should not walk away thinking this is new,” Minister Shanmugam said.
Racial harmony has progressed, but it is also a work in progress.
Singapore has always stood as an exemplary model when it comes to racial and religious harmony.
“There is racism in Singapore, but we are a better society than most other multiracial societies I know,” Minister Shanmugam said, highlighting the fact that our model has worked better than most.
However, there is nothing natural about our state of racial harmony and it is something that needs constant care and attention, or we will risk losing what we have achieved thus far.
Singapore once suffered from race riots sparked by deep political and economic differences in 1964, tensions that contributed to the decision to secede from Malaysia in 1965.
To avoid the mistakes of the past, the government has embedded multiracialism in its main national policies, which has helped build a fairly harmonious society.
For example, the government has introduced policies based on the CMIO framework, such as the Group Representation Unit (GRC) and the reserved Presidential Election that guarantee minority representation.
There is also the Ethnic Integration Policy, a scheme enacted in 1989, to ensure a balanced mix of ethnicities on HDB properties.
However, some detractors have criticized the government for taking race into account when designing our electoral system or the elected presidency.
They claim that by doing so, the government is actually underscoring racial differences. in a facebook post As of June 6, 2021, Howard Lee argued that such “policies play (a role) in exacerbating racism.”
For example, former Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) member Teo Soh Lung, mentioned in a separate Facebook post that HDB’s ethnic quota is “discriminatory”.
in a interview broadcast by BBC In 2015, Chief Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam spoke extensively on the Ethnic Integration Policy. He described it as “Singapore’s most intrusive social policy” but also considers it the most important.
Once people of different ethnic groups live together, they don’t just walk down the hallways and take the same elevator, he explained. “Children go to the same kindergarten, children go to the same primary school, because all over the world, young children go to school very close to where they live and grow up together.”
As such, the EIP has helped maintain racial and social harmony in Singapore by providing opportunities for social mixing among Singaporeans of different races.
With regard to reserving the elected presidency for minority candidates, critics have said that this policy goes against Singapore’s meritocratic values. In fact, hundreds of people protested in Hong Lim Park days after the first elections, reserved for Malays, saw Ms. Halimah Yacob take office on September 14, 2017.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong cited the issue as an example of how Singapore is proactively strengthening the institutions that support its multi-racial and multi-religious society.
He stated that it is more difficult for a non-Chinese candidate to be elected president through a national vote. “How would minorities feel if year after year the president of Singapore was almost always Chinese? In the long term, such a scenario would foster deep unhappiness and erode our nation’s founding values. “
He further explained that the measure gives ethnic minority groups the assurance that their place in society will always be protected.
We simply cannot deny that much has been done to protect our national cohesion, and we must not allow racist incidents that show Singaporeans facing off against a Singaporean compatriot to violate our beliefs.
When such racist incidents arise, most Singaporeans are quick to judge and leave a hasty comment on the people involved. This negative online speech generates more negative reactions and does not bear any fruit.
Instead, what needs to be done is that we provide concrete suggestions on how to improve racial harmony in Singapore to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
Multiracialism is not yet perfect and we must take pragmatic steps to get there gradually. It is important to note that the government is always open to comments and alternative policies; that’s what parliaments are for.
If we want to continue to live in harmony, we must manage racial and religious issues carefully, not leave them to chance. What is also important is that we recognize the continuing existence of racism at the individual level and work hard to address it.
At the end of the day, each generation must play its part in maintaining racial harmony and it is a continuous work in progress for us to achieve this important balance.
Featured Image Credit: Bloomberg