By Kumaran Pillai
Like how we predicted!
Even a good striker like Tan Cheng Bock can miss the net with the ever shifting of the presidential goalposts. Make no mistake, our next president is Mdm Halimah Yacob, she is of mixed Indian-Malay descent and is slated to represent the establishment in the upcoming presidential elections.
This has got little to do with affirmative action to create a level playing field for the minorities, especially the Malays in Singapore. One journalist from the Malay community has dubbed this as the “Trojan Horse.”
He is not wrong in saying that, both Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Abdullah Badawi, the former prime ministers of Malaysia have said that race politics has only set their country behind in terms of economic progress. I am sure that our ruling elite knows that race politics is an affront to our meritocratic and democratic principles. But for now, it seems like they care little about it.
There is plenty to gain for the ruling elite from this political manoeuvring – the person holding the second key is a staunch party loyalist, is popular with her grassroots and in the unlikely event that the PAP loses the next general election (it doesn’t seem so), the economic structures that support their clientelist style (or crony capitalism) can be safeguarded while the PAP is spending time in wilderness.
You need to give it to them for protecting their turf with total impunity. This is beyond authoritarianism.
There is also another purpose in doing this – it also serves as an important lesson for any PAP backbenchers who have any design of abandoning the PAP later in their careers. The only place that they can go from the backbench is the side-line as an onlooker.
That’s all, don’t nurse any lofty ideals, Cheng Bock. Besides you have already milked the PAP goodwill and became a Chairman of a listed company in Singapore. That was above your pay-grade, the PAP folks say.
And to aim any higher is “self-serving and selfish,” according to another former PAP backbencher and current Deputy Attorney General, Mr Hri Kumar.
Halimah Yacob was also a PAP backbencher, not too long ago. Thanks to a sex vixen Laura Ong, who brought down Michael Palmer in a scandal in 2012, Halimah was chosen as the Speaker of the House.
Sadly, most people don’t see her meteoric rise as the head of state as meritocratic. And her appointment as the next president of Singapore will be plagued by how she benefited from the race politics of PAP.
Clientelism is all about rewarding loyalty. It has nothing to do with meritocracy. And we knew this all along, anyways.
So, let’s just move on…
Reserved Election is a Can of Worms
So, we’re having a hiatus-triggered-reserved-election for the Malay community because we didn’t have any Malay President elected into office in the previous five elections leading up to the current presidential elections. How nice!
But, we’re not sure who was our first elected president – Was it Wee Kim Wee or Ong Teng Cheong? If the parliament says it’s Wee Kim Wee, then it is Wee Kim Wee. What you and I think, doesn’t really matter!
The real bone of contention, in some circles, is about the Malayness of the potential candidates. It seems odd that that three of the four candidates that have stepped forward are of mixed heritage and not ethnically Malay. This is hotly debated and discussed in social media.
I only learnt this a few days ago that the colonial government introduced the Malay Land Reservation Enactment in 1913 and needed a definition for “Malay.” A Malay is anyone who speaks the Malay language, follows the Malay customs and is a Muslim.
What’s even more interesting about this is, while there is a debate raging on the Internet about Halimah not being Malay enough, the UMNO, a political party in Malaysia, is thinking of co-opting Indian Muslims as part of the Malay community in Malaysia. Hmm…
Apparently, Muslims of Indian decent have contributed immensely for the welfare of the Malay community since the Gujarati traders of India brought Islam to South East Asia.
The Indians were also founding members of the Penang’s first Malay Association in 1927 and were involved in the establishment of UMNO in Penang.
Dr M, the former prime minister of Malaysia is not pure Malay, Zainal Abidin Rasheed, the former Mayor of North-East CDC is not pure Malay and the list goes on and on. It is safe to say that there is no such thing as a “pure” Malay race. Their “Malayness” is based on the culture that they have adopted and the language that they speak at home.
The Malays are a set intersection of Indians, Arabs, Javanese, Chinese and Parkistanis. So, there is little to quarrel about the “Malayness” of the otherwise Malay candidates. This matter will come to pass.
So, like all debates in Singapore, let’s move on….
The Malay candidates can change this
The so-called Malay candidates can do one thing to reverse this and only they can do this. They can choose not to participate in this charade and not be manipulated by the powers that be.
They are doing the Malay community no favours by stepping forward – not that the average income of the Malays is going to rise because of their term in office.
There is already disquiet in the Malay community and their voice will get louder. The minorities are capable of producing the next president of Singapore. No need to go down this path of race politics – it only highlights the differences in us. We need to foster togetherness, our similarities and what binds us as a society.
If no Malay steps forward, we’ll be forcing the government to call for an open election. We welcome anybody – Chinese, Indian, Malay or Others to contest in an open election and Singaporeans are capable of voting based on their talents and not because of their ethnicity.
And if Halimah wins in a fair-open-election, we can then proudly introduce her as having attained the highest office of this land because of merit.
Kumaran Pillai is the publisher and editor-in-chief of this publication