“Not a Malay nation, not a Chinese nation, not an Indian nation but a place where everybody will have his place: equal; language, culture, religion.” This was the promise Mr Lee Kuan Yew made on 09 August 1965 when Singapore became independent.
Truth be told, we have fallen short on this vision. Each race appears cordial with one another on the surface, but underneath, stereotypes and stigmas still persists. Despite the Government’s relentless efforts to bring the races closer, centuries of deep seated mind-sets cannot be changed overnight. The recent ISIS radicalisation of Singaporeans has given rise to suspicions amongst the hearts and minds of the non-Muslims. Caution and mistrust exist. Surprisingly, the Government’s unequivocal support for the Malay Muslim group has had the opposite effect of making the young Malay Muslims question the Government’s intent.
How then can the Singapore Government navigate through this sticky situation?
To me, the solution lies in the Elected Presidency where a Constitution Committee is currently reviewing the Elected President (EP) system. There are three areas to review, first – the eligibility criteria for potential candidates, two – beefing up the powers of Council of Presidential Advisers and three – to ensure minority candidates have a chance to be elected.
If you read my earlier sentence, the writing is on the wall. An Elected President will be from the minority group. I won’t be surprised that the next EP will be a Malay Muslim. Singapore has only had one Malay president, the late Mr Yusof Ishak, who was appointed to the office at the country’s founding. Perhaps it is fitting now to have a Malay representative, given the circumstance Singapore is in, to let a Malay leader gain trust from a nation.
But doesn’t dictating a minority representation go against the concept of meritocracy?
No! Meritocracy is all about removing obstacles to success and helping those with talents to excel. This is what scholarships are all about. If you are good, we fund you, we groom you, and we help you succeed. Meritocracy is about giving those with the right capabilities and talents the chance to lead the country. And if, the Malay Muslim Elected President meets all the stringent qualifying criteria, why should he be considered any less credible.
This decision (if I have predicted correctly) will not only safe-guard minority representation but is an important step to steer Singapore through this chaotic times of Muslim extremism. What Singapore needs is a strong Malay Muslim leader to rally Singaporeans together.
A Malay Muslim President is the best bet for Singapore at the moment.
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