The Value of Citizenship over Race

Efforts at racial integration has been impeded by the government’s own CMIO (Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others) policy that typecasts a racial profile for every citizen. The policy presupposes that every Chinese is a Confucianist, that every Indian is a cultural traditionalist, and that every Malay is a strict Islamic practitioner who prioritizes adherence to faith over country.

With a single stroke of an alphabet, every Singaporean is automatically embedded with a culture at birth; a child inherits the father’s ‘race’ – with all its associated trappings – while all possible ambiguities of racial identities are dismissed. Other than failing to identify with the dilemma of ‘mixed’ parentage, the government’s predilection with hyphenated-citizens undermines national identity for a more parochial racial one.

Not only does this policy results in the partition self-help groups along ethnic lines which can conceivably encumber social work efforts, it is also partly responsible for perpetuating the impression of the enigmatic Malay Singaporean whose loyalty is always mired in doubt. In the words of then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, “It would be a very tricky business for the SAF to put a Malay officer who was very religious and who had family ties in Malaysia, in charge of a machine-gun unit.”

As long as the government holds onto this perspective, the promise of Minister for Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim as mentioned in TODAY that “hard work and playing by the rules would bring its rewards in a meritocratic society” remains a distant dream.

Read the rest of the article here: Singapore’s first Malay general – a star of things to come?