In any culturally and racially diverse country, there will always be a tussle for equal representation in all aspects of nation-building. Fair enough though. Every aspect of our daily lives are impacted by laws and policies, making each of us an equal stakeholder whether we realise it or not.
Of course, we can’t all participate in parliament, and not everyone has the privilege to make a difference for our community and our country — this is where the power of our votes in every General Election comes into play. Every 5 years, we vote for the people whom we think are most capable, reliable, and best represent our hopes and dreams for the country we want.
After the IPS-RSIS Forum on Racism in Singapore where Minister Lawrence Wong shared an extremely well-articulated speech addressing current race issues in Singapore along with his views on the matter, Mr Pritam Singh took to Facebook to also air his own views.
In his post, Mr Singh shared his views on the GRC system, that: “a minimum number of minority representatives in Parliament is elegant in theory, but unconvincing in practice.” he also added: “the GRC scheme has long been overshadowed by incumbent political considerations, to the extent that it also serves a more important collateral purpose… and the GRC scheme continues to be routinely abused at the altar of politics.”
There’s quite a bit to unpack here. Firstly, it might be worth pointing out that opposition parties in Singapore have long contested the GRC scheme. For reasons unbeknownst to anyone who truly understands the importance of the GRC scheme, but baffling all the same.
The late Lee Kuan Yew shared in a parliament sitting in 1988 his views in response to the opposition’s Chiam See Tong: ”We have got here not by suppressing or pretending that race differences, language differences, cultural differences do not exist, but that they can coexist without the majority obliterating oppressing the minority…….but by accepting the fact there are fundamental primaeval differences and telling each other that we have to live, put up with each other, accommodate, compromise, bargain, and compromise again.”
The late Lee Kuan Yew also used Mr Chiam’s team as an example; that by his team, subject to the GRC scheme and having Mr Joffrey Mahmoud in the team, it gives leaders like Mr Mahmoud the opportunity to represent his race, and along with what he wants and aspires for his community.
Mr Singh also went so far as to say that “in the case of GRCs, minority representation is a Trojan Horse for the PAP’s political objectives.” Which, seems to be a sweeping statement without any actual substance since the GRC scheme applies to ALL political parties participating in the General Elections.
It’s pretty confusing as to why Mr Singh has taken his stance against the GRC scheme, when it has, in fact, ensured that many minority leaders have been elected into government. Himself included. Yaacob Ibrahim, Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Vivian Balakrishnan, are the three Cabinet ministers in the 11th Parliament from minority communities who were elected through GRCs.
At the heart of the GRC scheme, lies the intention of not just having more minority leaders represent their communities in parliament, but also ensure all communities are being heard and understood when laws and policies are being made.
Mr Singh also attempted to end his post with a question of whether or not it is true “that the majority of Singaporeans today will inevitably vote along racial lines?”. That is clearly beside the point. The main point being challenged here is the relevance and fairness of the GRC scheme — which has been effective thus far in preventing political parties from fielding leaders of specific ethnicities in areas where the bulk of residents are of the same ethnicity.
Many policies we have in Singapore have been carefully crafted to ensure that no ethnic group gets marginalised, or disadvantaged because of the size or scale of their representation in society. Nobody gets left behind.
All fluff and no substance works on social media most times but will be debated and called out fairly and professionally in parliament.