Home News K. Shanmugam on racial issues in Singapore—the situation is much better than...

K. Shanmugam on racial issues in Singapore—the situation is much better than before

"And we must see how we can progress further, because as many of us recognise, there continue to be racial fault lines and religious fault lines. It is always work in progress.” said the Law and Home Affairs Minister

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Singapore— While Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam readily admitted to the presence of racisim in Singapore, as there bound to be in every multiracial society, he recently asserted that “the situation now is much better than before, improving over the years.”

In a video from Channel NewsAsia (CNA) and reposted on the Minister’s Facebook page, Mr Shanmugam spent some time discussing the issue of racism, specifically in the context of the recent controversial Nets Pay ad, as well as the youtube video released in reaction to it by Preetipls and Subhas Nair.

Let’s Discuss Race

[ Let’s Discuss Race ] 1. Is there racism in Singapore? Of course there is. There is racism in every multi-racial society that we know of. And there is, in Singapore.You look at the regular discussions on race, issues – this is a basic fact. But the situation now is much better than before, improving over the years.2. Racism in Singapore – we discuss it openly, we study it. For example, the IPS surveys. They come out once every two years – details our people’s views on race, religious issues. The latest IPS survey issued last week showed in fact a slight increase in perception of workplace racial discrimination. In some other areas of race relationships, there was some improvement. That was published in the media.3. Racism is a key concern for MHA, and other ministries. We want to build a cohesive society, but racism corrodes and deepens the fault lines in society. We do a lot to counter it, and we have set out what we do.4. The Nair siblings, like everyone else, had every right to raise the issue of racism, but the way they did it was not right. So, I agree with their right to raise it, but question the way it was done. If everyone starts discussing race and religion in the way they did, then you will in fact get more racism, not less. That is our key concern. They have used the language of resistance in America, but we thankfully are in a very different situation.5. In any multi-racial society, there is always a need to frankly discuss these issues. Casual racism – how you deal with it, how you increase awareness. We have regular conferences, symposiums, dialogues on these issues. Some by government agencies, some by NGOs, some by others. There are areas where the Government can do things, there are aspects where people have to become more aware, and more sensitive. We have made much progress from that day on 9 August 1965, when Mr Lee Kuan Yew very powerfully said, “We are not a Malay nation, we are not a Chinese nation, we are not an Indian nation. This is a country for all Singaporeans.” That is a very powerful idea. We have progressed by having clear government policies and Singaporeans generally accepting multi-racial values. As I said, we are not in the American situation. And we must see how we can progress further, because as many of us recognise, there continue to be racial fault lines and religious fault lines. It is always work in progress.6. The Ad – it was in poor taste. Many disapprove of it and the people behind the Ad, and others need to learn from that – be much more sensitive.As we approach our National Day, there is much that we can be positive about as Singaporeans, and look forward to further progress. I scan the BBC and other media every morning. This morning the first four headlines in BBC were: 1. Hong Kong police fire tear gas at protesters2. Mass shooting in Texas leaves 20 people dead3. Thousands flee Kashmir in militant attack alert4. 600 arrested in Russia protests.I’m not saying that governments were right or wrong in these situations – they face different issues.But we in Singapore can be thankful that we have avoided headlines like these. And we must continue to focus on getting things better, discuss issues openly and work on them.Video from CNA

Posted by K Shanmugam Sc on Sunday, 4 August 2019

One advantage Mr Shanmugam mentioned is the open discussion and studies on issues of race, giving the latest and recently-published IPS survey as an example, which “showed in fact a slight increase in perception of workplace racial discrimination. In some other areas of race relationships, there was some improvement.”

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He also said that racism is a concern that the MHA and other ministries take seriously, since it “corrodes and deepens the fault lines in society.”

And while Preetipls and Subhas Nair have the right to bring up racism as an issue, Mr Shanmugam said, and he does not agree with the manner in which they did so, as this could lead to more racism, instead of less. He also took exception to the Nair siblings using “the language of resistance in America.”

He wrote, “So, I agree with their right to raise it, but question the way it was done. If everyone starts discussing race and religion in the way they did, then you will in fact get more racism, not less. That is our key concern. They have used the language of resistance in America, but we thankfully are in a very different situation.”

He reiterated the need to how awareness must be increased, which for him is through civil discussions that must continue, calling it “always a work in progress.”

“There are areas where the Government can do things, there are aspects where people have to become more aware, and more sensitive. We have made much progress from that day on 9 August 1965, when Mr Lee Kuan Yew very powerfully said, “We are not a Malay nation, we are not a Chinese nation, we are not an Indian nation. This is a country for all Singaporeans.” That is a very powerful idea. We have progressed by having clear government policies and Singaporeans generally accepting multi-racial values. As I said, we are not in the American situation. And we must see how we can progress further, because as many of us recognise, there continue to be racial fault lines and religious fault lines. It is always work in progress.”

The Law and Home Affairs Minister also circled back to the event which started the whole controversy, the Nets advertisement, which he pronounced to have been ‘in poor taste.’

Mr Shanmugam ended his discussion with mentioning issues in other countries which he says he is thankful Singapore does not need to face, such as the protests in Hong Kong, mass shootings in the US, and unrest in Kashmir and Russia. -/TISG

Read related: SDP heavyweight calls out K Shanmugam for hypocrisy and discrimination

SDP heavyweight calls out K Shanmugam for hypocrisy and discrimination

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