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Sylvia Lim calls for HDB’s ethnic quota and other race-based policies to have an open review

Ms Lim said that in an ideal situation, no such safeguards would be needed as the electorate would be race-blind enough to elect candidates of different ethnicities naturally

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Chairman of the Workers’ Party (WP) (Aljunied GRC) has called for an open review of various race-based policies, including the Chinese, Malay, Indian and Other (CMIO) model of ethnic classification and the Housing Development Board’s (HDB) Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP).

During the debate on the President’s Address in Parliament on Tuesday (Sept 1), Ms Lim suggested six areas that could be reviewed to move Singapore along in its “journey towards being a race-blind society”.

In her speech, Ms Lim said that the Chinese, Malay, Indian and Other (CMIO) model of ethnic classification, while initially defended as necessary to safeguard minority rights, is problematic, as it would be better to discuss citizenship rights.

She added: “Furthermore, with more and more inter-ethnic marriages, where the bride and groom are themselves of mixed parentage, I wonder how the CMIO classifications can withstand the test of time.”

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The HDB’s EIP was introduced in 1989 to ensure a balanced mix of ethnic groups in HDB estates and prevent the formation of ethnic enclaves, Ms Lim said. She added that the EIP has caused economic hardship, as residents from minority communities can buy or sell only from other members of their own community when the quotas have been reached.

Ms Lim also said that some residents could also be left in “limbo” for months if they are stopped from buying or selling owing to the ethnic quotas.

“Today, half a generation later, I hope we can have a more progressive discussion on this issue,” she added.

In her speech, Ms Lim also touched on the topic of the elections. She said that Chinese candidates like herself are not required to prove they are Chinese to stand in elections. Some requirements put a focus on minority representation, which can put an uncomfortable spotlight on minority candidates who must file an application to show they are “Malay enough” or “Indian enough” to qualify for an election. But, Ms Lim continued, in an ideal situation, no such safeguards would be needed, as the electorate would be race-blind enough to elect candidates of different ethnicities naturally.

At the end of her speech, Ms Lim added: “In choosing to speak on this topic, I am acutely aware that there are different perspectives on matters of race as DPM Heng Swee Keat acknowledged in this House on Monday”.

“Nevertheless, I believe it is essential for us to move this conversation along so that we inch ever closer towards the ultimate destination of being a race-blind society”. -/TISG

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