Date: Tue, 02 Jun 2009 07:39:44 GMT
Local: Tues, Jun 2 2009 3:39 pm
Subject: The Singapore we wanted dearly but the pap Leegime will not give us
Monday, 01 June 2009
My youngest son, Khairul Azrie, is in Secondary 3. Like his brother
Khairul Anwar he too represents his school in basketball. It is a known fact
that most Malay boys their age either play soccer or sepak takraw.
When time permits my wife and I would make it a point to watch them
play in the numerous inter school and inter district tournaments, especially
if the games are played at the Aljunied Basketball Centre, which is a stone's
throw away from where we live. And we are proud to say that when they are on
the court they play their hearts out, making meaningful contributions to
My sons' choice of sport has given them an exposure that is somewhat
different from what we normally see. The friends that they go around with
are almost entirely non-Malay. Come Hari Raya their friends would converge
on our house to savour the ketupat and rendang prepared by my wife. The
dessert has always been the traditional kueh normally served during Hari
Raya. To many of them the food was so finger-licking good that they would
tease my wife to let them come for makan more often than just once a year.
What my children are going through reminds me of my childhood days at
the government quarters in Haig Road where I grew up. It was a multiracial
setting in every sense of the word where everyone was oblivious of their
racial background. We were completely colour blind. Whether you are Chinese,
Malay, Indian or Eurasian it made no difference at all. We had Ali as well
as Ah Lee, the Kanagasabai children and the Pereiras.
Even the hawkers in their tricycles and pushcarts were multiracial.
The 'chi chong fan' lady and uncle Karupayah, the kacang putih man would
take turns making their rounds. Soon after came Ah Heng, with his ice kacang
ball, to be followed by Wak Karto plying his mee rebus and tahu goreng. Not
to be left out was Mama Maideen with his famous mee.
All of them could speak bahasa Melayu, our so-called Bahasa
Kebangsaan. Once a week we were treated to a movie at the open field in
Kulim Place where the GSWO (Government Servants Welfare Organisation) club
house was also situated. Those were the wonderful days, gone forever.
Though the environment we find ourselves in today is vastly different
from the one that I grew up in I am nonetheless happy to see my children
coping well with their circle of friends. Last weekend however, when we were
just about to finish our dinner Azrie suddenly asked me whether it is true
that as a Malay he would not be allowed to join his friends should they opt
to serve in the air force. What about the army or navy? He further said,
without being asked, that he learned this from his friends in school.
On hearing what his brother said, Khairul Anwar chipped in and said
that he too had heard about this. His teacher had told the students in a
class discussion that since he is a Malay he would not be called upon to
serve his nation in the services mentioned above because "Singapore is
surrounded by Malay countries."
"What's wrong with that, papa? Are they not countries friendly to us?"
They are also our major trading partners and members of the ASEAN family, he
I took a deep breath, told him and his two siblings (my eldest child,
a girl, studies at Temasek Polytechnic) to finish their dinner, help their
mama to clear the table and move to the living room.
I had planned to discuss this issue with my children sometime in the
future when they are more mature. I did not want to disrupt their growing up
years. But when this very subject of racial discrimination was brought up by
my children themselves I had no choice but to bring forward the process of
politically educating them.
I related to them some of the more pertinent points of disagreement
serious-minded opposition personalities are having with the PAP Government.
As for me I have said all my life that I had stood for multiracialism.
The PAP also claims to adhere to the concept of multiracialism. When
Singapore was a part of Malaysia its leaders pushed for a "Malaysian
Malaysia" so aggressively that the Malays got very irritated. They feared
that the concept pushed by the PAP would deny them their special rights, as
enshrined in the constitution. Its actions infuriated the Malaysians to such
an extent the Tunku, Malaysia's Prime Minister at that time, was left with
no other choice but to expel Singapore from the federation.
Not long after attaining independence the PAP put into practice
discriminatory policies which they were so dead against when Singapore was
in Malaysia. And make no mistake about it, such policies cannot be justified
no matter how the Government tries to rationalize them.
One explanation put forward by the PAP is that they did not want the
Malays to face a dilemma should a war break out between Singapore and its
neighbours. So, to "save" them from this so-called dilemma it is best that
they did not be put in such a situation. To do this they must not be allowed
to serve in the armed forces, especially in the air and naval forces.
I related to them an article entitled The Ghosts That Walk With Us
written by the late Mr S Rajaratnam in which he concluded that the chances
of Singapore going to war with its immediate neighbours were real. Under
such circumstances the Malays in Singapore would not want to fight, thus
justifying the discriminatory policies.
This perhaps explains the absence of Malays in the air force and the
navy and their preponderance in the civil defence and to a lesser extent,
the police force. How wrong can the PAP be? This is certainly not the way to
build a united nation. Perhaps Singaporeans need to be reminded that during
Indonesia's konfrontasi when then President Sukarno sent his commandoes to
infiltrate our country, our soldiers in the 1st and 2nd SIR Battalion,
almost entirely Malay, proudly defended their country against the Indonesian
intruders. Quite a number of them got killed in the process.
Unlike the colour-blind environment in which I grew up, every turn we
make nowadays we are reminded of our racial origin. We can't, for instance,
move into any housing estate of our choice due to the racial quota and you
inevitably are reminded of your racial origin.
We cannot enroll in SAP schools unless we take Chinese as a second
language; we go to CDAC or SINDA they tell us to go to MENDAKI.
We cannot serve in many fields in the armed forces although many
foreigners-turned-Singaporeans can. For that matter, as a contractor, we are
not allowed into military compounds even to cut grass or do pest control
We are not allowed to wear something as basic as the tudung (head
scarf) when our young women reach puberty in secondary school even though
religious freedom is guaranteed in the Constitution.
We cannot have more than one full minister as the quota has always
been only one and that too is almost always a ministry in charge of clearing
garbage. If we choose to stand for elections we have to prove our racial
origin and first be issued with a certificate even though our NRIC clearly
identifies us by race.
The funniest thing about this requirement is that for repeat
candidates you still have to do it at every election as though in the short
span of time between GEs our race undergoes a change.
This is the kind of discrimination and humiliation that the ethnic
minority groups in Singapore have to live with. On one occasion a member of
the approving panel was an Arab and it took an Arab to tell a Malay that he
was a Malay and therefore qualified him to stand in the GRC. There are, of
course, many other instances that keep reminding Singaporeans of their
But I continue to have faith that there are enough Singaporeans of all
races who oppose such discriminatory policies. Sooner, if not later, such
policies will be dismantled and Singapore will be a truly multiracial
society, a society that we aspire to.
I have gone into politics to oppose PAP's hegemony, and to strive to
give Singaporeans an alternative voice. I do not subscribe to the thinking
that the PAP has a monopoly of ideas that are good for the nation. I believe
in the establishment of a multiracial, democratic Singapore in the true
sense of the word. PAP's discriminatory policies have no place in a truly
To the PAP, any group that poses a serious challenge to its rule is
labeled either a communist, a communalist or a religious extremist. And it
never fails to play the racial card whenever it suits its purpose. That was
how they robbed the Workers' Party team in 1991, of which I was a member, in
the Eunos GRC of victory by accusing me of mixing religion with politics.
The "sin" was my usage of two very common Islamic expressions of "insya
Allah" and "Alhamdullah" (God willing). That, in short, is how the PAP
operates and with the media under its absolute control it gets away with
Apart from racial discrimination, I told my children there is a long
list of other issues and policies which my comrades in the SDP and I oppose
and strive to change. I intend to register in their minds the unfair tactics
employed by the PAP in order to stay in power. I told them I shall be going
through with them the issues in small doses so as not to overload their
We in the opposition staunchly believe that it is in Singapore's long
term interest to have at least an alternative group of dedicated
Singaporeans which can challenge the PAP and be ready to take on a
leadership role should the PAP falter further, lose control and quickly
degenerate into an unworthy outfit. I do not believe in putting all our eggs
into the PAP basket. It is suicidal.
This after dinner session marked the beginning of my children's
Jufrie Mahmood is a veteran oppositionist. He stood as a candidate in
the 1988, 1991, and 1997 general elections.