In a opinion piece published by the Straits Times on 20 July, "Doubts about presidential hopefuls not being Malay enough are off track", ST Political Editor Zakir Hussain argues that the very nature of this year's contest has misdirected energies towards securing the 'most authentic' candidate instead of a Malay candidate who would make the best head of state.
He wrote that there has been some contention on social media over the "Malayness" of would-be candidates, with some asking whether any of the aspirants who have stepped up or are mulling over a bid is "truly Malay".
Commenting that "it is as if the very nature of this year's contest has misdirected energies towards securing the "most authentic" candidate instead of a Malay candidate who would make the best head of state."
He notes that it is ironic for the people to file their questions in such a manner given that all three hopefuls - businessmen Salleh Marican and Farid Khan, and Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob - have been acknowledged by the community, peers and the media as prominent Malay individuals.
However, the stance that was taken by the author in the opinion piece somehow fails to convince ST's readers on the matter.
Majority of the ST readers, including readers who are Malay, almost unanimously disagreed with the piece, voicing that it is the racial election created by the People's Action Party that caused such scrutiny on the race of the candidates.
A commenter on ST, Zain Kazmi wrote, "This whole exercise has caused such an unwelcome awakening of a deep racial consciousness that it's badly disappointing. Shameful."
Another commenter, Mohammad Ammar Azhar also voiced his disapproval in the changes to the election,
"I really hate this Racial Presidency. Slowly it becomes obvious that the system is problematic. Instead of voting for the best President, we now need to think of the candidate's race. The system is skewed and weak. We Singaporean need a President that can lead and protect us, REGARDLESS OF RACE, LANGUAGE OR RELIGION!
In a subsequent comment, he wrote,
"If any MPs or Ministers or even their staffs are reading these comments, please read George Orwell's Animal Farm. I bet most, if not all of our politicians had read it a long time ago. To our current government, please don't be like the pigs in the book. Pre-governing they said "two-legs bad, four-legs good." After governing for a while and the leadership changed, they said "four-legs bad, two-legs good."
Aren't our current government behaving like the pigs? Pre-governing our government said being racist is bad. We need to elect our leader base on meritocracy. Now, after changes in leadership, our government says, the head of state must come from a certain race. Isn't that Racist?
We need to uphold Meritocracy. Even it means I will not see a Malay President in my life time. As long as my generation to come don't need to go through the slip road of pre-1965 and slightly after 1965. I think you know what happened during that period."
Zulkarnain Hassan wrote, "We didn't make an issue, the govt did by doing this absurd reserved elections. None of the candidates is Malay. Even our ICs you have to our race, Javanese, Malay and that double barrel crap! Pot calling the kettle black."
Sathia M Palani wrote, "It's a bloody insult to Meritocracy and the Singapore Pledge this racially motivated President Election and even more insulting to justify non Malays as Malays..."
Dare Chia wrote, "Things are off track because the PAP based this whole Malay-only election on poor foundations. No wonder everything is crumbling. You can't talk about meritocracy of the position if you already created artificial restrictions with no validity. I'm more worried that the idiots who came up with this are the same ones holding 93% of the seats in Parliament."
Syafiq Iskandar wrote, " They already want Halimah. Then realized that she is not Malay. So got the other 2 to join in to make Malay-ness become a non-issue. And if they think Mdm may not win, will use all means to ensure it is a walkover. I hope I am wrong."
Marc Wang commented, "Should be based on birth certificate or IC. "
Patrick Yuin questioned the rationale of the decision to make the election based on race, "If any other people or even ministers initiated the next President must be a Malay, they will be criticised being a racist. But when PM Lee initiated it, no other ministers dare to oppose. Isn't this country being rule by 1 person? If their IC says their race is Malay, then they should qualify for this new race-based presidential election decided by the Parliament."
Chantran Lawrence wrote, "You can say and give all kind of reasons for this script... But the fact remains is that a Malay is the next leader... But none of the candidates are.. Another PAP scam to side track the issue... And make Halimah the next president... Waste time..."
Lee Tze Chuan wrote, "Racshouldn'tnt be decided on in the 1st place. We've instantaneously narrowed choices for Singapore and in my opinion unwise. We are already an integrated multi racial society (not perfect). My 2 cents worth. (If there isnt deviation, no one will start to point out this and that)"
Jimmy Wong wrote, "First of all... It's bloody racist to decide on a Malay president, it should be based on ability, don't play colour in Singapore... Then since we have decided on a Malay president, STICK TO IT! Singapore very hard to find Malay meh? Don't ownself elect own self, ownself change race ownself."
Wee Kiat wrote, "See..? this is wat happens when u start to decide to have elections reserved for race... singapore is a multi-racial country where u will get different races getting together and starting families... there shouldn't be a need to reserve any elections for any race because that is racist and only seeks to divide the country into clear lines to divide up the races..."
Kiezin Teng wrote, "This is the problem that has been created by the government of the day. Precisely because it has reserved the seat for a specific racial group, the conversation is now not about who the best head of the state is. It should have always been who the best head of state is regardless of race. Oh well."
Loh Wai Poon wrote, "It is the fault of the government who say race is important n minority race needs Reserved EP election to have a representative as EP! Since race is so important then how can we have candidates who are not identified as Malay in their ICs contesting in this Reserved EP election for Malay? Are we being casual in identifying who is Malay? Can anyone become a Malay as he/she wishes? All along, we say race is not important n let the EP election be an open one n may the best candidate wins on merits. No, the govt said race is important n minority race particularly needs help to become EP. So how can we be casual about what race the candidate belongs? We are a rule of law state! if we cannot even be strict about race, then how about gender? Can we say we are females as we wish we are?"
Mabell Ong wrote,
"Changing the conditions on a candidate is wrong, fixing it has to be a Malay is wrong after 2 wrongs now everything abt Elected Presidency is wrong. The worst would be forcing the public to vote a choice by gov n then go declare the president is elected by public. Not taking siblings to court when they make serious allegations of abuse of power by pm is wrong. Having it Parliamentparliament is wrong, again after 2 wrongs everthing is wrong by just trying to keep quiet n not talk abt it even though many qns by nmp, wp n public went unanswered.
Not making changes to ease the stress n burden of our children/youth going thru the rigid n pressure cook moe sys is wrong, blaming it entirely on parents is wrong. After 2 wrongs, everything is wrong whn more kids grow up n become adults with loads of issues including those who potentially works in ruling party.
How long n how far e ruiling party is going to, to ignore Singaporeans' voices n make a fool out of Singaporeans? How far n how long the public will allow this to go on before breaking point? Next election will tell.
...Singapore pledge: regardless of race, language or religion. The fact that there are all these race n religion condition/confusion to be ep is totally wrong n going backwards...Ruling party nd to acknowledge it's wrong, correct it n move on. Instead of bulldozing it thru n making a fool out of Singaporeans again!"
Moe Zaldjian wrote,
"This is not a Malay problem. The dumbass who insisted that this Presidential Election be for a Malay reserved election then he has to settle the problem.
1. If a person whose father is not of Malay ethnicity then he/ she cannot be a Malay. No matter how much belacan one eats.
2. If the Malays in Singapore accept anybody to be considered as a Malay since the government says so then there will be no stopping the govt in considering Filipinos as Malays also.
Though an Indian Muslim is considered as a brother/ sister of faith to the Malay Muslim community, but as for race he/ she cannot be a Malay.
No person of integrity and honour will sell off one's race/ heritage just for status or money we hope.
Amin Mak wrote, "Isnt the PAP Government the one that made constitutional changes which REQUIRES MALAY ONLY candidates for this coming election? Why dont they just make it an open Presidential Election and everyone can run freely (including these 3 presidential hopefuls)... PLAIN AND SIMPLE. (I am Malay and I prefer an open election)."
Vincent Law wrote, "Lets just be clear and intelligent about this. The only reason why 'Malayness' is even an issue is due to the unconstitutional reserved presidency that the government is ramming down our throats
Mark Marky First and foremost president elections shouldn't be limited to any specific race and since they've decided to go this route of course you'll see ppl looking at the ethnicity of that particular race is it?
Sharon Tan wrote, "It was the government who told us we need to have a reserved election for Malays. So the natural question for everyone is, is this person who's father is an Indian , considered a Malay. Otherwise, pls amend the reserved election for Malay and Indian. Then we the electorate, won't be so confused."
Shawn Sugendran wrote, "Seriously in this age and time we as Singaporeans who pledge ourself as one united people regardless of race, language or religion, we still scope a presidential election towards a Malay President ??? This is an utter disgrace to what Singapore was founded on. The principles of Fairness, Equality and Meritocracy just got flushed down the drain. The big question is not their background or ethnicity. It's really which Singaporean would make the best President in the next election. Let Singapore Citizens decide that and don't tell stories about why it's should be scoped. Like this, I will refuse to vote as this election is unconstitutional and goes against the founding principles of Singapore."
A commenter, Lee Teck Koon questioned if the new amendments and leeway on the racial criteria, "Malay or Muslim lifestyles ? Some Filipinos have Malay stated on their NRIC. Could a well qualified Filipino new citizen run for EP ?"
Sajitha Nair wrote,
"Maybe it is to be considered if the Malay community feels that the next President needs to come from the Malay community. After all, this decision was made to be fair to the Malays. But do they want it so badly that they will take any candidate, at the detriment of the country or at the price of it being a reserved slot?
My two cents worth is that every time the Presidency is being run for, open it to any born and raised Singaporean. Let the best person win. At least you know you're getting the cream of the crop at the top and it wasn't out of "no choice".
By the way, to me, all three candidates are Malay enough (but I'm not Malay myself so does my opinion even count?)
Andrew Ong Kah Heng wrote, "The slippery slopes of incumbent politics began long ago, racial politics is the very core concerns and fear of our founding fathers yet the poor choice decision and execution will certainly exact a high cost on us every citizen. We are embarking on a predictable social down road that is hard and unnecessary. The golden question is "what for?"
Lucy Chong wrote,
"Don't understand the rationale in indicating that this upcoming election for an elected President should be confined to a Malay candidate when it is not. This is more of a Muslim candidate than that of a Malay. How naive can one be to think that a race can be changed just because a person is a Muslim.
Does this mean that a Chinese who has been raised in a Malay family and adopted the Malay culture can also be viewed as eligible to be a Malay candidate for this election process? Why is the process criteria made so confusing and unnecessary just to accommodate those who are not really meeting the objective?"
Kita Loo wrote, "That means if TCB can speak fluent Malay and mixed well in Malay community. He can take part. First say reserved for Malay now say need note pure Malay. This election is really a laughing stock to the world. The biggest clown in town."