Home News Featured News Forget race, language and religion

Forget race, language and religion

Sense And Nonsense by Tan Bah Bah

Author

Date

Category

- Advertisement -

As I was saying before I was interrupted by the war… this was roughly what Cassandra, a British newspaper columnist, wrote when he resumed his column as peace came after World War 2. I don’t presume to be the legendary Cassandra. Neither was I interrupted by anything so devastating and historic as a global conflict.

But I was laid off by a rather lengthy stay at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Here I am, glad to be back. Before I talk about anything else, I want to say just two things. Please take care of your health. It’s your temple. The only one that you have. Respect it.

Talking about respect, I have only good things to say about the ICU staff of Tan Tock Seng. This is not the first time I’ve been to this hospital. I was there for a month in 2014. I did not have a good experience. At that time, the hospital seemed to be rather messy. Somewhat disorganised. So I had some trepidation when I was admitted there again.

But this time, I see a vast improvement. I use the present tense  because I’m still at the hospital. There has been a noticeable improvement.  The doctors and nurses are largely professional, patient, caring and organised. And I say thank you. And well done.

- Advertisement -

By the way, I’m writing this on National Day. Once again, the National Pledge was made at the big parade. The Pledge. Engraved in every school child’s psyche. Resurrected on special occasions but finding a certain resonance at the NDP.

It’s interesting that Law Minister K Shanmugam wrote in his Facebook about the Pledge. About the story behind it. As was reported in The Straits Times, the pledge went through several drafts before the final version was approved. Shanmugam”s comment was a kind of extract of what Jenadas Devan wrote in 2016 when he was discussing national identity. I recommend you to read that if you have missed it. Jenadas is Director of the Institute of Policy Studies.

Anyway, Shanmugam wrote about the “race” part of the pledge. He quoted the late Deputy PM S Rajaratnam who drafted the pledge. The founding father colleague of Lee Kuan Yew said in his version to “Forget differences in race, language and religion”. The final version had it as “Regardless of race, language and religion”.

To me, Rajaratnam was not being naive or overly idealistic. In fact, he had pooh-poohed the idea that we are going to have a national identity: “A national identity for Singapore is not possible. And the very idea is ludicrous.”.

Never mind what was really behind the change to “regardless race, language and religion”.

Regardless sounds so bureaucratic, like the sort of compromise language which comes out of a company annual report or a UN resolution.

I like Rajaratnam’s version.

Forget race etc means stop looking at one another as being all that different. As I lay on my hospital and look at all the patients, I don’t see them and they don’t see one another as other than people and Singaporeans. And the staff are of so many races in a common task of looking after patients – local Chinese, mainland Chinese, Malays, Indians, Filipinos, Britons.

National identity, maybe not.  But being a country, even a city state, yes.

We can say like Malaysian Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, in the context of being Malaysian:  I’m a Malaysian. I don’t see myself as Chinese.” We can and should see one another as Singaporeans above all.

With that I wish all Singaporeans a Happy National Day. Or as one strange signboard at a HDB carpark said, Happy 53st National Day.

Tan Bah Bah is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a local magazine publishing company.

Send in your scoop to news@theindependent.sg 

- Advertisement -

JTC issues stop-work order on contractor that ‘erroneously’ cleared Kranji woodlands

Singapore – The contractor that “erroneously” cleared a forested area at Kranji has announced it has been issued a stop-work order by JTC and is assisting the developer with investigations on the issue. On Feb 16, state-owned industrial property developer JTC responded...

Clementi, Dover, Kranji: Singapore’s grand conservation plan is to plant trees and destroy forests

Yes, we love to plant trees. Since Lee Kuan Yew started the whole ritual, at least 10,000 saplings are planted every year since 1963 as part of the Tree Planting campaign. Impressive indeed. Singapore Clean and Green. At the same time,...

Ex-UOB vice-president charged with mishandling over S$5.4 million

Singapore—Sixty-five-year-old Ling Shek Lun, who used to be a  vice-president at UOB, has been charged with mishandling millions of dollars, reported straitstimes.com (ST) on Friday (Feb 19). Ling, a Singaporean who was charged in district court on Feb 10, faces two charges...

Send in your scoop to news@theindependent.sg 

Theindependent