Definition of a “Malay person” opens up a can of worms about Mendaki and apparent double standards

Member of Parliament from People’s Action Party, Mr Zainal Bin Sapari opened a can of worms about Mendaki when he made a Facebook post about the definition of what constitutes a Malay person with citizens voicing the treatment that they got from the Yayasan MENDAKI in their request for financial assistance.

With anecdotes of double standards when comes to approval of financial aid, netizens raise questions of whether the government is shifting the goalpost or definition of race to suit their purpose, and whether it is in anyway unfavourable to the country’s progress for the government to be playing the race card for political means. 

Earlier on 14 July, Mr Zainal shared a link from Yahoo News which touched about the issue of race surrounding the upcoming Presidential Election which will be a reserved election for the Malay community.

In the post, the Yahoo author highlighted that this year’s presidential election is reserved for “person(s) belonging to the Malay community. According to Article 19B of the Singapore Constitution, which deals with reserved elections for communities that have not held the office of President for five or more consecutive terms, this means “any person, whether of the Malay race or otherwise, who considers himself to be a member of the Malay community and who is generally accepted as a member of the Malay community by that community”. This was further emphasised by Mr Zainal by repeating it as caption on his Facebook share.

In Mr Zainal’s post, a commenter, Mohamed Aidil Subhan argued, “That’s just too vague a definition. Is it even a definition to begin with?”

In response, Mr Zainal wrote, “Basically, it means that your race need not be stated as ‘malay’ in your NRIC or birth cert to be considered as a malay candidate.”

Following his comment, another commenter, Nailul Hafiz pointed out to Mr Zainal on the confusion of such a definition would mean to how Mendaki extends help to the Malay community,

“Mr Sir, my apologies – very confusing to me and many that I had spoken to. Especially when they can be President on a Malay ticket and yet Mendaki rejects them on the TTFS because their IC doesn’t state Malay. Anecdotes are abound. I am hoping that the parliament could make these things clear before pushing through such legislations.”

Another commenter, Harphal Singh also addressed this point on Mr Zainal’s Facebook tread, “A Malay friend who is Javanese told me his father put Malay in his IC so that he will qualify for financial aid reserved under the constitution for Malays. My Indian Muslim student could not get financial assistance from mendaki because of this. The govt constitution allows the money set aside only for Malays not Muslims.”

Mr Zainal did not answer to Mr Singh and Mr Hafiz’s comment since then till today.

According to its website, Yayasan MENDAKI (Council for the Development of Singapore Malay/Muslim Community) describes itself as a pioneer Self-Help Group formed in 1982 dedicated to empower the community through excellence in education, in the context of a multi-racial and multi-religious Singapore.

MENDAKI’s programmes largely target the bottom 30 per cent of the Malay/Muslim population and are therefore highly subsidised. They are mostly preventive and developmental programmes to provide early assistance to the beneficiaries so that they will be school ready, able to perform in school and ultimately be future ready. The programmes are designed to supplement or complement national initiatives.

MENDAKI works extensively with partners that share and support its vision and mission. They consist of government agencies, schools, mosques, Malay/Muslim organisations, employers, community centres and MAECs, family and student service centres and many more.

In a 2011 article, Mendaki’s financial assistance department responded to queries about its criteria to grant subsidies by saying that applicants are eligible for its Tertiary Tuition Fee Subsidy as long as they are Malay. However, they do not accept applicants who are Indian or of other ethnicity. When asked why they do not give out such grants to other Muslims, a spokesperson explained that the subsidy scheme is exclusively for Malays as they are the indigenous race of Singapore and declined to give further details.

In the CPF’s website, it states, “All working Muslims who are Singapore Citizens, Singapore Permanent Residents and foreign employees need to contribute to the MBMF…”

So a question here is why the double standard in determining a Malay candidate for the Presidential Election who is supposed to represent the Malay community and for the purpose for granting financial assistance to a Malay that Mendaki is supposed to support? Given that all Singaporean Muslims contribute to the fund, why are they not given the same assistance just because the race on their ICs state otherwise?

Anecdotes from netizens show apparent criteria of a Malay in Singapore as deemed by Mendaki

Local social-media site, All Singapore Stuff then posted an article about the comment raised in Mr Zainal’s Facebook post which attracted comments and personal accounts on how they were treated by Mendaki.

Surinah Tamsi wrote, “Agree, I face the same problem not able to get assistance from Mendaki for my kids….”

NaenHudz ShaDyan Johnson wrote, “Been there and done that. Mendaki clearly helps only MALAY. Bullshit policy. Shame on them cos Sinda and CDAC helps irregardless of who you are…”

Aleem Bhai wrote, “Same here. When I asked for Mendaki Scholarship during my school days, I was denied cos my dad is Pakistani and thus I was considered Indian. I then went to Sinda and was denied because my mom was Malay and thus considered Malay. When I grew up years later and was employed, both Mendaki and Sinda did monthly deductions from my salary. I don’t mind the mosque building fund, it’s my obligation as a Muslim but these 2 shameless bodies also did deductions. I have 3 words to say to u. “Kepala Butoh Lah”

Rafee Paparep wrote, “Agreed bro. Sama bendera. … gua sokong lu 100%. I also face the same issue when applying for my son scholarship during his poly. At last take loan front CPF answer repay back by monthly installment… I’m an Indian Muslim. I speak Malay and my whole family speak Malay. We all looks Malay. But Mendaki rejected us because I’m Indian Muslim.”

Idris Md Noor wrote, “Ayoo…even a Malay also cannot get assistance from mendaki during my sis even ask to get tuition but was rejected and was not from a well to do family of 10.”

Zan Hermoso wrote, “Yes i am one of those. Mendaki dont support, sekali gaji kena bayar SINDA plak”

Andrew JS Rodrigues Mendaki supports Malay Muslims…period. Experienced it myself! Pushed me to Eurasian Assc…and EA said I am a muslim, they cant do anything…but every month take $10 from my salary…1 of the many reasons why I left and living life now in Bali…”

M Shafiq Aziz wrote, “When I was in school and asked Mendaki for financial assistance, they rejected me cos my father is Indian on IC. Told us to go to Sinda. Sinda told us to go back to Mendaki cos culturally, we are malays and my mum is malay. So no help. Then the moment i graduated and got a ‘Dr’ title, Mendaki had the nerve to call me up and told me it is my duty to contribute back to them. I told them to F off!! What a bunch of hypocrites! So the PAP will only consider one malay when it suits them. It is a rigged election anyway and PAP has lost all credibility imo.”

Khairul Khalif Wong wrote, “Double standard… kita pernah ditolak atas sebab “indian” dan bukan malay… tapi bulanan contribution die cekik…”

Muhammad Shariff wrote, “I like the point made by the netizen (for info, I am a Indian Muslim and I am not eligible for financial assistance from Mendaki)”

Syed Ali wrote, “Till today I am totally confused with this Malay/ Muslim category in our Singapore. I am not too sure who were people behind setting up this category. As Indian Muslims, non of my family members had benefitted from any mendaki edu grants despite our ( family) contributions the last years with the exception of our mosque building fund. Since there’s a very strong support now, Our Malay /MPs/ Ministers must also assist us to address this issue since there’s no Indian nor Chinese Muslims MPs in our cabinet now. Nothing being racial here but just looking for some consistency ya.”

Auto-contribution for Muslims but no financial help

A commenter, Patrick Lim questioned on ASS’s Facebook tread, “Is she contesting?. Yes, Then all Indian Muslims should enjoy mendaki assistance. But don’t sideline Chinese n other races who are muslims too. Mendaki should help Muslims… Not just Malays.”

Mohdali HT answered,  “ long you contribute you qualified..”

Another commenter, Masrina Rashid corrected HT by writing, “Nope. They expect muslims to contribute but will only help malays. The moment my husband converted to muslim they deduct his salary for donation. I told my husband mendaki is racists and asked him to stop contributing. And yes, by right they should help muslims regardless of race.

Kevs Syde Zoomer followed up with Rashid’s comment by writing,

“Mendaki expect all races Singaporean Muslim to contribute to Mendaki from the CPF auto deduction MMBF. They only mentioned Muslim Singaporeans are liable to contribute to Mendaki fund. But when assistance requested from Muslim Singaporeans to Mendaki, they will quote that only assistance will be render if your ID on race read as Malay.

Now,who is being a Racist and practising double standard system?

Why make use of religion name for the sake of own convenient?

I believe if oneself is sincere and be transparent, multi races with good hearts will for sure come forward to donate. But when you cheat people, everyone will start questioning you(mendaki). They the non malay muslim deserves to know why? Medaki have been keeping quiet so far? Mr. Yaacob Ibrahim,do u have any good reason for this kind of practice? To the best of my knowledge,mendaki is under your charge. OR you need your best speaker in mendaki to explain to non-Malay muslim Singaporeans? Just Bring it!!!”

Karata Sapu replied Kevs Syde Zoomer, “If what you said is correct than mendaki is a cheat and thief but if its Mosque Building Fund and you are a muslim than they have the right to take your money..If its fund taken for mendaki coffers you should claim a full refund with interest because you could only seek financial assistance from Sinda.”

Kevs Syde Zoomer Krata wrote, “It is damn True! No kidding, bro. As u can read all other comments. Those are the victims that cant get assistance and they are not Malay but muslim Singaporean contributing to Mendaki via CPF monthly as required by Mendaki. As for mosque, no probs at all..That’s a must for all muslim of all races and we are happy to even contribute more to the mosque.

Hafiz JF supported the comments by writing, “I’m Spanish muslim, but mendaki still deduct my salary. Why not put the criteria as “Muslim President” and forget about the race thingy. Problem solved.”

Reserved election for Malay or Muslim?

Ken Chong commented, “I’m getting confused, so its reserved election for Malay (Race) or Muslim (Religion) ?”

Lone Blackwolf replied Chong, “It is only for the Malay race. They twisted it to Muslim! And I also have stop donations to Singapore mendaki, because they too not helping Chinese Muslim like me. So I only donates to anyone that needs help from my pay. Even Malaysia’s Mosque gets it when I’m there. Singapore don’t need converted Muslim’s like us. Singapore hates Muslims which I knew long ago.”

Thomas Lee wrote in dismay,

“The government preaches racial harmony but in real fact they are the biggest racist.

Saying and doing all the stupid and unnecessary stuffs like…. Singapore not ready for an Indian Prime Minister, Presidency reserved for Malay candidates. Wee Kim Wee is the first elected president.

So sick and tired of all their lies and innuendo.”

Intezaar Hussain wrote, “They suka suka say. Better still say upfront they have appointed their lackey why all the wayang. As for Zainal Sapari please compensate all those who did not get help from Mendaki by your qualification of Halimah Yacob as Malay.”

Rohaimi Mohd Saad wrote,

“Actually it is the desire of the government of the day who they want as President now…I don’t think majority Malays are asking for this.
And now because of their own definition of ‘who qualifies as a Malay’ ,
citizens are now divided, wasting time going at each other throats talking about whether those candidates are Malay or not Malay enough.

The focus are now diverted … Govt as always get what they want!

The only issues that I hope Halimah can help address when she becomes the President are
-why Muslim woman wear tudung and
-to clarify that for female, it’s called circumcision and not genital mutilation”

Nil Simon wrote, “WTF… Singapore becoming 3rd world countries?….. now the gahmen is playing with the race card, they not only hurt the minority muslims but confused the others in general. Just chose anyone to be your puppet in PE and leave the malays alone…..the malays have been tolerating with the antique for so long and believe me discrimination toward the malays still exist till today. The malays have been marginalised in many sectors in defence, in politics even at work place…..what else the gahmen want? …..should thanks the malays for being humble, never see them raise their voices to show displeasure.”