In a live interview with radio station CNA938 yesterday (June 10), House Affairs and Legislation Minister Ok. Shanmugam talked concerning the current spate of race-baiting incidents in Singapore. 

Final Saturday, a polytechnic lecturer confronted an interracial couple at Orchard Highway and mentioned that Indian males shouldn’t be “preying on Chinese language ladies”. 

A movie recording of the encounter was posted on Fb, which has since gone viral. His former college students has additionally got here ahead to share their recounts of the now-suspended lecturer making racist remarks and Islamophobic feedback in school.

Picture Credit score: Livanesh Ramu through Fb

Extra not too long ago on Wednesday, Fb person Livanesh Ramu posted a clip of a person performing a Hindu prayer routine on the doorway of his house, whereas within the background a lady who seems to be Chinese language clangs a gong repeatedly in a seemingly spiteful riposte.

On high of that, a lady named Catherine Beow Tan — also referred to as the “Hwa Chong” girl — has made headlines for making racist remarks towards different commuters on the MRT practice. 

It was later discovered that she additionally had a devoted YouTube channel that perpetuates racism and harassment, which has since been terminated. 

Minister Shanmugam mentioned that it’s “not fairly stunning” to see this rising development of racist incidents. He later acknowledged that there’ll all the time be some degree of racism locally, which is inevitable for any multi-racial society. He famous that Singapore’s leaders have all the time recognised the existence of racism right here, which performs out in 3 ways: deep racial fault strains, outright racism, and racial preferences.

“When you have preferences and also you deliver it out into the general public sphere and also you specific it and make it as a norm for others, then I feel that crosses the road,” he mentioned.

“You must name out (racism), you must frown towards it, and you must take motion when it breaches the regulation. As a result of it’s cancerous, it’s divisive, and it undermines the values of our society.”

Racial concord has seen an enormous progress, however are we regressing?

He identified that many authorities insurance policies have been formed based mostly on the truth that there’s racial desire and racism in Singapore.

“The query is, how will we mitigate this to ensure that meritocracy works and that individuals of all races have honest alternatives?” he careworn.

Whereas racism is certainly prevalent right here, he feels that Singapore’s racial concord is unquestionably not on a knife edge.

We’ve got made large progress, there’s racial concord (and) most individuals settle for the norms of a multi-racial society. Course has been optimistic, however I put a query mark (following) current occasions: are we at risk of regressing? It’s a course I’m involved about.”

– Minister Ok. Shanmugam

He added that though racism exists right here or in any multi-racial society, the frameworks and processes which have been put in place have helped to safeguard racial and spiritual concord.

“We’ve got a reasonably strict framework in Singapore and authorized provisions are fairly tight, however you may’t all the time have a look at the regulation as an answer to each state of affairs.”

“Authorized framework is one a part of it, however the authorities and society need to work laborious to keep up concord. You’ll be able to’t simply result in racial concord and racial tolerance as an acceptance simply by having legal guidelines and implementing them.”Subsequently, though legal guidelines are essential in shaping the framework and basis, we’ve to take action way more and transcend that to attain racial concord. 

Everybody has to play a component in safeguarding racial concord

singapore races
Picture Credit score: Singapore Coverage Journal

The federal government undoubtedly has an essential function in safeguarding racial and spiritual concord, which is a cornerstone in Singapore.

Nonetheless, Minister Shanmugam emphasised that the society at massive — folks, and even establishments — even have a vital function to play on this.

It’s not a subtraction for Singaporeans to say that I’m Indian, Chinese language or Malay. … Past these (sub-identities), we’re additionally Singaporeans and that may be a widespread identification. We should emphasise this widespread identification at the same time as we recognise (and) settle for our particular person identities.

We have to have the widespread imaginative and prescient to construct a system based mostly on justice, equality and meritocracy, the place everybody can really feel equal and guarded. The federal government performs an enormous function in articulating this imaginative and prescient.

– Minister Ok. Shanmugam

He went on to quote examples of how some Singaporeans have a tendency to reply to racist incidents with racist remarks of their very own, which he finds an ironic behaviour.

The federal government makes it some extent to name out such behaviours as a result of if it’s not addressed, the subsequent time the tables are turned, the federal government could discover itself constrained when it desires to take motion.

“Rule of regulation means the regulation applies to all — majority and minority — equally,” he careworn.

“Have we utilized the regulation pretty? Do folks consider that we’re making use of the regulation pretty throughout all races? Is everybody protected? In the event that they consider that, then folks will say I settle for the operation of the regulation.”

Whereas it appears that evidently racism is on the rise, it’s essential to know that this has all the time been occurring, besides that social media has now helped to shed extra gentle on these issues.

“We shouldn’t go away considering that that is new,” mentioned Minister Shanmugam. 

Racial concord has progressed, nevertheless it’s additionally a work-in-progress

Singapore has all the time been upheld as an exemplary mannequin relating to racial and spiritual concord.

“There’s racism in Singapore, however we’re a greater society than most different multiracial societies that I do know of,” mentioned Minister Shanmugam, outlining the truth that our mannequin has labored higher than most.

Nonetheless, there’s nothing pure about our state of racial concord and it’s one thing that wants fixed consideration and nurturing, or we’ll threat dropping what we’ve achieved up to now.

Singapore as soon as suffered from race riots sparked by deep political and financial variations in 1964, tensions that contributed to the choice to separate from Malaysia in 1965.

To keep away from the errors of the previous, the federal government has entrenched multi-racialism in its main nationwide insurance policies, which has helped construct a reasonably harmonious society.

For example, the federal government has launched insurance policies based mostly on the CMIO framework such because the Group Illustration Constituency (GRC) and the reserved Presidential Election that ensures minority illustration.

There’s additionally the Ethnic Integration Coverage, a scheme enacted in 1989, to make sure a balanced mixture of ethnicities in HDB estates.

Nonetheless, some naysayers have criticised the federal government for factoring in race when devising our electoral system or elected presidency.

They declare that by doing so, the federal government is definitely underlining racial variations. In a Facebook post dated 6 June 2021, Howard Lee argued that such “insurance policies play (a component) in exacerbating racism”.

For example, ex-Singapore Democratic Occasion (SDP) member Teo Soh Lung, talked about in a separate Facebook post that the HDB ethnic quota is “discriminatory”.

In a broadcasted BBC interview in 2015, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam talked at size concerning the Ethnic Integration Coverage. He described it because the “most intrusive social coverage in Singapore”, but additionally deems it as a very powerful.

hdb ethnic integration policy
Picture Credit score:

As soon as folks of various ethnic teams stay collectively, they don’t seem to be simply strolling the corridors and taking the identical elevator, he defined. “The youngsters go to the identical kindergarten, the children go to the identical major college, as a result of everywhere in the world, younger youngsters go to highschool very close to to the place they stay, they usually develop up collectively.”

As such, the EIP has helped to keep up racial and social concord in Singapore by offering alternatives for social mixing amongst Singaporeans of various races.

Close to reserving the elected presidency for minority candidates, critics have mentioned this coverage goes towards Singapore’s meritocratic values. The truth is, a whole lot protested in Hong Lim Park days after the primary election — reserved for Malays — noticed Madam Halimah Yacob sworn in as President on 14 September 2017.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong cited the problem for instance of how Singapore is proactively strengthening the establishments that assist its multiracial and multi-religious society.

He expounded that it’s more durable for a non-Chinese language candidate to be elected president by way of a nationwide vote. “How would the minorities really feel if yr after yr, the president of Singapore had been nearly all the time Chinese language? In the long run, such a state of affairs would foment deep unhappiness and erode the founding values of our nation.”

He defined additional that the transfer offers minority ethnic teams an assurance that their place in society will all the time be safeguarded.

We merely can’t deny that a lot has been achieved to guard our nationwide cohesion, and we should always not let racist incidents that show Singaporeans pitting themselves towards a fellow Singaporean shake our perception. 

When such racist incidents floor, most Singaporeans are fast to guage and depart a hasty touch upon the particular person(s) concerned. Such destructive on-line discourse begets extra destructive reactions, and doesn’t bear any fruit.

As a substitute, what must be achieved is for us to really present concrete recommendations on enhance racial concord in Singapore in order to stop comparable incidents from occurring sooner or later.

Multi-racialism shouldn’t be but excellent and we have to take pragmatic steps to progressively get there. It’s essential to take be aware that the federal government is all the time open to suggestions and different insurance policies — that’s what the parliaments are for.

If we wish to proceed to stay in concord, we should rigorously handle race and spiritual points, not depart them to likelihood. What’s additionally essential is that we recognise the continued existence of racism on the particular person degree, and work laborious to handle it.

On the finish of the day, each single technology should play their half to keep up racial concord and it’s a continuous work-in-progress for us to strike this essential stability. 

Featured Picture Credit score: Bloomberg

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