Such compromises I, a Chinese in Singapore, have made for racial harmony…

Over the last week, much has been said in Parliament about Singapore’s Elected Presidency (EP). It was reported that there was vigorous debate in Parliament. Not that the vigorous debate made any difference. In the end, the changes proposed by the government was still passed unaltered.

To be fair, the counter-proposal by the WP of having a Senate wasn’t really that well fleshed out. Why did WP wait until the Parliamentary debate to bring up their idea? And why were there so little implementation details? Did they think through the sort of questions that they might be asked?

In particular, the exchange between NCMP Dennis Tan and Minister Shanmugam was painful to watch. Dennis was hemming and hawing when being questioned by Minister Shanmugam about the criteria of people running for the Senate. You would have thought that, as a lawyer, Dennis would be better able to hold his own in a verbal sparring.

And it’s also interesting that WP didn’t press the PAP on other aspects of the changes to the EP. Particularly the issues about race. Why the rush to have a reserved election for presidency? Just because some surveys said that Singaporeans are racist preferred someone of their own race to be president?

Minister Ong Ye Kung tried to assure Singaporeans that the Chinese community is behind the idea. In his speech in Mandarin, Minister Ong told Parliament that the Chinese is willing to make compromises to maintain racial harmony. And what was the best example of this? According to Minister Ong, it was when the Chinese accepted English as Singapore’s official language.


Really? How’s accepting English as our official language a compromise that we had to make in favour of racial harmony? The pioneer generation of Chinese probably wouldn’t even want Mandarin as the official language, given that most of them not really proficient in Mandarin. Most of them were proficient in various dialects.

Besides, was setting English as the official language to maintain racial harmony the key consideration? I don’t think so. Instead, I think the key consideration was to make it easier to do business with the rest of the world. And the whole thing about maintaining racial harmony was probably a convenient by-product.

Yes, I agree, a lot of the older generations of Chinese have been disadvantaged because of their lack of mastery in English. My parents are amongst that group. But I don’t think that happened because of an overwhelming desire to maintain racial harmony. More because the Chinese intelligentsia was perceived to be a breeding ground for communist ideas thus had to have their influence curtailed.

In short, if there were any compromises made by the Chinese in Singapore in the past, I would argue that it wasn’t really for racial harmony. And today, I highly doubt many Chinese today would feel that we, as a community, have had to make any compromises for the sake of racial harmony.

So I seriously question what Minister Ong was thinking when he made his point that the Chinese in Singapore have made compromises for racial harmony.

[Featured image from Channel News Asia]


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