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Minister Shanmugam: Racism exists in S’pore but the key question is, how do we mitigate it?

In a reside interview with radio station CNA938 yesterday (June 10), Home Affairs and Law Minister Okay. Shanmugam talked about the current spate of race-baiting incidents in Singapore. 

Last Saturday, a polytechnic lecturer confronted an interracial couple at Orchard Road and stated that Indian males shouldn’t be “preying on Chinese girls”. 

A movie recording of the encounter was posted on Facebook, 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 class.

hindu prayer racism singapore
Image Credit: Livanesh Ramu by way of Facebook

More lately on Wednesday, Facebook person Livanesh Ramu posted a clip of a person performing a Hindu prayer routine at the doorway of his dwelling, whereas in the background a girl who seems to be Chinese clangs a gong repeatedly in a seemingly spiteful riposte.

On high of that, a girl named Catherine Beow Tan — also called the “Hwa Chong” lady — has made headlines for making racist remarks in opposition to 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 stated that it’s “not quite surprising” to see this rising pattern of racist incidents. He later acknowledged that there’ll at all times be some degree of racism in the neighborhood, which is inevitable for any multi-racial society. He famous that Singapore’s leaders have at all times recognised the existence of racism right here, which performs out in 3 ways: deep racial fault strains, outright racism, and racial preferences.

“If you have preferences and you bring it out into the public sphere and you express it and make it as a norm for others, then I think that crosses the line,” he stated.

“You should call out (racism), you should frown against it, and you should take action when it breaches the law. Because it is cancerous, it is divisive, and it undermines the values of our society.”

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

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

“The question is, how do we mitigate this to make sure that meritocracy works and that people of all races have fair opportunities?” he harassed.

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

We have made large progress, there’s racial concord (and) most individuals settle for the norms of a multi-racial society. Direction has been constructive, but I put a question mark (following) current occasions: are we in hazard of regressing? It’s a route I’m involved about.”

– Minister Okay. 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 have a fairly strict framework in Singapore and legal provisions are quite tight, but you can’t always look at the law as a solution to every situation.”

“Legal framework is one part of it, but the government and society have to work hard to maintain harmony. You can’t just bring about racial harmony and racial tolerance as an acceptance just by having laws and enforcing them.”Therefore, though legal guidelines are necessary in shaping the framework and basis, we must do a lot extra and transcend that to attain racial concord. 

Everyone has to play an element in safeguarding racial concord

singapore races
Image Credit: Singapore Policy Journal

The authorities undoubtedly has an necessary function in safeguarding racial and spiritual concord, which is a cornerstone in Singapore.

However, Minister Shanmugam emphasised that the society at giant — folks, and even establishments — even have a crucial function to play in this.

It will not be a subtraction for Singaporeans to say that I’m Indian, Chinese or Malay. … Beyond these (sub-identities), we are additionally Singaporeans and that may be a widespread id. We should emphasise this widespread id whilst 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 authorities performs an enormous function in articulating this imaginative and prescient.

– Minister Okay. Shanmugam

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

The authorities 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 authorities could discover itself constrained when it desires to take motion.

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

“Have we applied the law fairly? Do people believe that we are applying the law fairly across all races? Is everyone protected? If they believe that, then people will say I accept the operation of the law.”

While it appears that evidently racism is on the rise, it’s necessary to know that this has at all times been taking place, besides that social media has now helped to shed extra gentle on these issues.

“We shouldn’t go away thinking that this is new,” stated Minister Shanmugam. 

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

Singapore has at all times been upheld as an exemplary mannequin in the case of racial and spiritual concord.

“There is racism in Singapore, but we are a better society than most other multiracial societies that I know of,” stated Minister Shanmugam, outlining the proven fact that our mannequin has labored higher than most.

However, there’s nothing pure about our state of racial concord and it’s one thing that wants fixed consideration and nurturing, or we will threat shedding what we have 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 determination to separate from Malaysia in 1965.

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

For occasion, the authorities has launched insurance policies based mostly on the CMIO framework reminiscent of the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) and the reserved Presidential Election that ensures minority illustration.

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

However, some naysayers have criticised the authorities for factoring in race when devising our electoral system or elected presidency.

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

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

In a broadcasted BBC interview in 2015, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam talked at size about the Ethnic Integration Policy. He described it as the “most intrusive social policy in Singapore”, but additionally deems it as the most necessary.

hdb ethnic integration policy
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Once folks of various ethnic teams reside collectively, they aren’t simply strolling the corridors and taking the identical elevator, he defined. “The kids go to the same kindergarten, the kids go to the same primary school, because all over the world, young kids go to school very near to where they live, and they grow up together.”

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

With regards to reserving the elected presidency for minority candidates, critics have stated this coverage goes in opposition to Singapore’s meritocratic values. In reality, tons of protested in Hong Lim Park days after the first election — reserved for Malays — noticed Madam Halimah Yacob sworn in as President on 14 September 2017.

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

He expounded that it’s more durable for a non-Chinese candidate to be elected president by a nationwide vote. “How would the minorities feel if year after year, the president of Singapore were almost always Chinese? In the long term, such a scenario 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 at all times be safeguarded.

We merely can’t deny that a lot has been executed to guard our nationwide cohesion, and we mustn’t let racist incidents that show Singaporeans pitting themselves in opposition to a fellow Singaporean shake our perception. 

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

Instead, what must be executed is for us to really present concrete options on how to enhance racial concord in Singapore in order to forestall related incidents from occurring in the future.

Multi-racialism will not be but excellent and we have to take pragmatic steps to step by step get there. It’s necessary to take be aware that the authorities is at all times open to suggestions and various insurance policies — that’s what the parliaments are for.

If we wish to proceed to reside in concord, we should fastidiously handle race and spiritual points, not go away them to likelihood. What’s additionally necessary is that we recognise the continued existence of racism at the particular person degree, and work onerous to handle it.

At the finish of the day, each single era should play their half to take care of racial concord and it’s a continuous work-in-progress for us to strike this necessary steadiness. 

Featured Image Credit: Bloomberg

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