Sometimes I can’t help but feel that racism and sexism exists everywhere, and it can be seen again in the context of Singapore. Today I read a letter to the ST Forum, which talks about having a prime minister of a difference race (non-chinese). It says that perhaps we should not compare Obama’s recent victory to Singapore, and I feel the same way too.
However, I was reading the comments to the forum, and I had this thought in my mind. Why are we still harping on issues like “When will we have our first non-chinese Prime Minister?”, or “When will we have our first female Prime Minister?”.
In my opinion, are those questions that should be asked? To ask them shows that we are seperating ourselves into different groups, based on race and gender. I also feel strongly against asking those questions, and I feel that the question to ask is, “Is Singaporeans able to accept a PM of a different race and gender?”
What is the difference, you may ask. Perhaps this question also segregates us based on race and gender, but the significant difference is that we are not clamouring for a PM of a different race or gender. To me, as long we Singaporeans are able to accept anyone without care of his or her race or gender, or religion (not that it has been a factor in any case), it means that we do not need to care when those events will happen.
Surely you’ll agree with me that having a PM of a different race or gender simply for the sake of satisfying those questions asked by the public is a dangerous move. We should ensure that we have no bias towards those groups of people, and if they prove capable, we will also push them up. This ensures that we are able to cope with being fair, and we would be able to promote people based on their qualities. If we move a female PM up, but she is not the best candidate out of the others, then we would have made a wrong decision. (This is just an example, not being sexist here)
So let us stop asking when will we have this or that, but ask ourselves if we are able to accept them. If we are able to accept them, then let the government know that its citizens are ready, and they will move people up as they deem fit.
Racial harmony more vital
I WELCOME the opinion voiced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Sunday’s report, ‘Non-Chinese PM? Possible, but not soon”, on the possibility of having an ethnic minority prime minister in the not-too-distant future, as well as the limitations he outlined in realising such a possibility.
Since the election of Mr Barack Obama in the United States presidential race last Tuesday, the prospect of Singaporeans choosing a Malay or Indian as a future prime minister has re-surfaced.
In the 1988 National Day Rally speech, then PM and current Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew discounted such a possibility, doubting the readiness of Singaporeans to accept a non-Chinese.
Twenty years on, has our political outlook changed?
Anyone who compares the election of Mr Obama with that of a non-Chinese prime minister in Singapore must realise it is unrealistic to compare a large and far older democracy like the US with Singapore, which has had a little more than 40 years of practising democracy.
Even a liberal democracy like India, the world’s largest, is not fully ready to accept a fully Indianised but Italian-born woman like Mrs Sonia Gandhi, widow of the late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, and leader of the ruling Congress Party, to the prime ministership.
Singapore has made a good start, thanks to multiracialism and meritocracy.
We have had presidents, deputy prime ministers and a senior minister from minority races and we should be proud of this.
Mr Obama’s elevation to America’s highest office sends a clear message that meritocracy and hard work pay off.
I have never regarded our three prime ministers as leaders who emerged from Singapore’s majority community.
This is testimony to the way they have carried themselves.
Our immediate priority now should be to ensure our policy of multiracialism and meritocracy continues.
We must make sure there is genuine racial harmony and no ethnic group feels discriminated against, anywhere or at any time.