In the reports by The Straits Times and The New Paper on Saturday, states that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reminds Singaporeans that founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew once declared that "everybody will have a place in Singapore," stressing that Singapore is "not a Malay nation, not a Chinese nation, not an Indian nation".
His remarks on race were not just to reassure minorities, but also a sober reminder to the Chinese majority not to oppress the non-Chinese because they themselves had felt "squatted upon" when Singapore was in Malaysia.
PM Lee stated that Singapore's objection to Malaysia's leaders wanting one dominant race to enjoy special rights and its belief in multiracialism led to Separation. This was one of two reasons multiracialism was made the fundamental principle on which Singapore was founded.
The other thing that he said was bout survival as it is a majority-Chinese country in a Malay-majority part of South-east Asia. Being perceived as a "Third China" or a proxy for communist China would have caused problems with Singapore's neighbours, and "we would not have been able to live peacefully" in the region.
In the past 52 years, PM Lee said, Singaporeans have made significant progress in "becoming one people - regardless of race, language or religion".
Measures include designating English as the common working language, imposing ethnic quotas in HDB flats to ensure people of different races live together and creating group representation constituencies (GRCs) so there will always be minority MPs.
"Sometimes we think we have arrived, and that we can do away with these provisions and rules which feel like such a burden. In fact, it is the other way around. It is precisely because we have these provisions and rules that we have achieved racial and religious harmony," he said.
Still, Singapore has yet to arrive at the "ideal state of accepting people of a different race", PM Lee said, citing surveys that show people are not completely colour-blind.
He also stated that in day-to-day life, minorities also sometimes face discrimination when looking for jobs or places to rent and that the Chinese may not realise it, being the majority race, and "may think Singapore has 'arrived' as a multiracial society".
They, however, may get "small reminders from time to time" of racism when they go abroad, saying that if you go to America or Australia or somewhere in Europe, you may know what it feels like to be treated as a minority," PM Lee said, adding that younger Singaporeans, having known only peace and harmony in Singapore, may believe race does not matter any more.
"We should not be shy to acknowledge that in Singapore, the majority is making a special effort to ensure that minorities enjoy full and equal treatment," he said.
Having multiracial presidents is one important symbol of what Singapore stands for, and a declaration of what we aspire to be. "It is a reminder to every citizen, especially the Chinese majority race, that there is a role for every community in Singapore.
Netizens lashed his speech, with some writing that the PM's words and actions are dividing the country.
Datok Penang wrote, "At one point in time, Singaporeans of all races were friendly towards one another. It's the government that uses race and religion to segregate us.
It's the government that says that we are not ready for a non-chinese PM. It's the government that refused to allow the Muslims to serve in certain positions in the military. It's the government that says, Singaporeans vote for their own race. Don't try and push the fault to the people. In the first place, we shouldn't have the race and religion column on our IC. Period.
The government is both the devil and the angel."
Joel Wong wrote, "When did Chinese make Malay feel not welcomed? We work together, play together and live next to each other in HDB flats. Racial tension was never an issue before.
His speech is very damaging to the racial harmony that is so hard earned. He is basically now saying Chinese in Singapore have a bias against Malay, how is this not sowing discords?"
Wee Teck Lim wrote, "In what way do we not make them welcome. I was a victim of HDB minority rules to ensure no HDB area becomes a racial enclave and missed getting a unit many years back near my mum. I moved on since then. Then you manipulate the rules and make majority look like we bully them. Seriously, what logic is that."
Jimmy Lim wrote, "All races have been getting along well all these years. What you have done has just made Singaporeans feel disgusted. We are and have always been one big happy family. No need for you to justify your actions and tell us what's right."
Lee Jerry wrote, "The more our PM talk the more I disrespect him. Why is he raising discord now when we were all living in harmony for so many years."
Chris Ng wrote, "I have been playing football with my Malay and Indian neighbors and school mates since primary school. Totally no issues hanging out with them too. But, a president regardless of race should at least be able to justify his or her position by entering the office through a proper voting process."
Salbiah Sirat wrote, "We are one people one nation. Satu kampung. Singaporean. All this while we are living harmony. Just back to our school time. We all be fair, sport together, eat together. You feel joy. We nothing to lose because we are family. We always stood up together. Lets carry our school day till now. We feel peace and harmony. Do i feel not welcome? No. This is our home. We are all one nation. Happy right?"
Toh Hai Hoe wrote, "Since when we do not welcome minorities? What kind of a PM is LHL, keep trying to divide us by race? If you mean what you say, then install a minority as PM, not just for PE."
Steven Cheong Fuyuan wrote, "What minorities!?!? We are all same.Why are they trying to separate us and our all the long harmony. I don't see people I know from their colours and countries. I see them as friends."
Khairulharis Bin Karem wrote, "Very sure the Malays do not need to feel welcomed because they were already home in the first place?"
James Wang wrote, "Singapore has had racial and religious harmony for last 50 years. Singaporeans have had accepted Indian, Chinese, Malay and Eurasian as presidents.
LHL, stop talking rubbish to upset the harmony and to cover up the fiasco of the president election."
Ah Hong wrote, "For decades of years, races r equal n harmony. We played footballs and cycle with Malay , Indians. We are friends. I don’t feel left out by them and now our leaders start to talk about races! What’s wrong with them?"
Siyun Corinne Zheng wrote, "You are the one segregating us! We never feel we any of any difference! We play, we eat, we work, we enjoy each other's presence ! It's you who give talk on races and religions . Make the minority's feel welcome? What kind of statement is that? We are never separated or differentiated so who is feeling unwelcome! We are in our homeland our motherland! Stop creating a difference between us! Do not try to drift us apart playing your cards"
Emd MK wrote, "To me, all races, languages, different colour skins are as long as in Singapore, all we are one. So why need to distinguish us as who is minorities or majorities. Stop this separatists thing, I don't want to go back to my parents days where there was crashes between races. What we felt betrayed is government wanted a Malay as president instead bring in an India and make it impossible on the other candidates to participate. In the end, making us looks stupid and felt I am treated like an idiot."
Gavyn Chia wrote, "Why speak out of context when the actual fact is not people angry about the race of the president but it was pre-elected and chosen not by the people but the government himself. So meaning you are above all law and since you are the government then you can do whatever you want? You chose our president. Now what? Next, will you choose what race we can marry to only? Racial harmony mah! Because so you only allow Chinese and Malay or Indian must mixed or can marry. What are you talking about ah PM Lee?"
Darren Tay wrote, "So obviously he look down on Malays if not reserved election they will never win. Sounds so racist. I do vote for other races even in school or other groups if they are capable. So his viewpoint is not valid to many of us."
They also bashed the PM for being disgraceful.
Kim Yap wrote, "We are not against having a Malay, or Indian, or Eurasian,or Hottentot president so long as he is a Singaporean. We just don't like the method it was done recently! It was completely un-Constitutional!"
Rashid Mustafa wrote, "How could PM said 'let the minorities feel welcome'. No need to welcome Malay. Cos we are the indigenous of Singapore!"
Dare Chia wrote, "Minorities are more than welcome. Gerrymandering, political gangster tactics and dishonest elections are not.
Don't try and confuse the issues."
Christopher Supramaniam wrote, "Did you not said in 1988 that we need minority representation in the GRC and now Marsiling Yew Tee would have a walk over. There is no by election. What happened to your speech to Chinese Singaporeans make minority feel welcome ?"
Ben Teo Teck Chye wrote, "The more LHL talks about this, the more disgusting it sound. Keep justifying it by telling Singapore that the world is full of praise of our multiracial when this picture is engineered."
Tan Chew Gek wrote, "We make them feel welcome is another thing, and democracy is another thing. Well, you can have many minorities running for PE and letting us choose. But nope, it didn't happen."
Mahfuz Wan Abdullah wrote, "The racist PM had spoken. Without the graciousness of the Chinese majority in the PAP parliament/government, Halimah will never be a President. I don't need to be welcome. This is my country until you open the floodgates and gave citizenship to foreigners. Now we are breeding racial and age discrimination and we have plenty young untalented foreigners stealing our rice bowl. We are basically competing with foreigners for low salaries. Low salaries for foreigners means the can feed the whole village in their country, but for Singaporeans, low salaries means living in poverty. As a government, please don't say that there are no poor people in Singapore."
Wee Chon Kiat wrote, "You seem to be talking to those Chinese new citizens rather than true blue Chinese Singaporeans. You PM is very deluded. Trying to justify yourself after writing the whole scripted PE drama, acting it out and declare yourself an award winner. This is a very disgusting move."
Justin Dutchman wrote, "Minorities to feel valued n welcomed in ones own country? We minorities are foreigners in our own country? The Chinese are oppressing the minorities? Giving me an impression that we minorities are being persecuted by the Chinese. OMG!"
Alvin peh wrote, "The whole issue and all the time wasting talks and discussions just beat around the bush from the fact that this certain individual just wants himself and his party to stay in power forever and no one can ever question and check on them. Any other matters relating to this is totally non relevant. Don't let them grab you by the throat and direct your eyeballs on what to think."
Delahk Ffital wrote, "Do not be a joker la ah Lee. Nobody is against whoever the president is. But you play dirty game of course people not happy. After many years suddenly don’t know what dream you have while sleeping and start to do reserve Malay president. You really are joker!
After many years never think suddenly can start to reserve race for president"
Saiki Akbar wrote, "What do u mean by 'make minority feel welcome'??? This country belongs to Singaporeans, Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian. It does not belong to the Lee's.. Make it clear in your head."
Roger S S Lim wrote, "My blood boil when I read the PM's feeble attempt to justify his debacle Presidential manipulation. We are not daft. We are no fools. But admittedly we are helpless, held captive by his absolute control of state and parliamentary power. Yes PM Lee you have just won the (reek presidential Election) battle, let you know this the war is far from over. Tyrannical rule will not last forever. History is a good teacher."
Freddie Kee U wrote, "You broke the vase and now you talk of mending it. No matter how you mend it, the cracks will always show. You have destroyed the multi racialism that had existed for the past 52 years. You have betrayed my trust in you and your team."
Pat Yau wrote, "It is very sad for Singaporeans to have a PM like LHL who think we are simple-minded enough to believe in his bullshitting. The fact that LHL manipulated the whole reserved presidential election is painted on the wall, especially when he craftily refers to the start of the elected president terms to start from Wee Kim Wee and not Ong Teng Cheong. So LHL, shut-up and stop embarrassing yourself and continue to make yourself a shameless fool!"
Toshi Rau wrote, "Trying to evoke nostalgia. True with what your siblings claim and way to cash in on good old dad. Raising discord to justify your dictatorship when you pay lip service to democracy, whilst robbing us of an election. You and your elite cohorts have always marginalised the Malays, good example was your million dollar hand picked ministers while you paid Halimah half that. Charity begins with you. Better look at retirement as you are going to be embarrassed with GE2020.
Word on the street is your wife has lost so much out off the coffers that you need to place Halimah there so you can manipulate the situation. No other President will allow you to touch the reserves."
Some also stated that the PM is definitely not his father, running this country in shameful ways.
Alex Lim wrote, "Mr LHL it is about time for you to step down, honestly you’re running out of integrity and righteousness. Life is short do it good and do it right else how you be facing your father’s in the next world."
Dave Tan wrote, "If Singapore is not a Indian, Malay or Chinese nation, then what's the need to have a racist PE? Do not base on your late father theory, everyone is Singaporean. No?
Of course, we cannot blame you, since you can't even understand your late father wish to demolish his house, definitely you can apprehend what is your late father meaning on that."
Choo Jimmy wrote, "Mr. Lee you are nowhere close to your father in running Singapore. It is known that you had manipulate the authoritarian power which amounting to misuse and abuse the parliamentary concessions for the PAP to change and control the constitutions for your gains and benefits which also sow discords among our multi cultural society."
Some also stated that Ms Halimah Yacob is not their president and asked PM the unfair way of the Reserved Elected Presidency.
Napoleon Low Li Wei wrote, "It is not about we Chinese Singaporean are against a Malay President. Now it is not about the race, it is about why is she the only eligible Malay to be running for President and not other Malays. Are your rules or criteria set to only let Halimah unconstitutionally win the Presidency?"
Niki Ng wrote, "Not My Elected Female President. Ownself Elected Ownself President. Great laughing stock of the whole World, as our elected President was not elected by our citizens."
While some of them stated that this move was taken out of fear that Tan Cheng Bock might win the election and become the president.
Andrew Wong wrote, "Dear PM. You explained that it is good to have a Malay president as it is necessary for multi racialism. But we Singaporeans have no such issue before, until you triggered in the race reserved for a Malay president. The sentiment on the ground is that you do not want Mr. Tan Cheng Bock to be the president. So why explain this after Mrs. Halimah has been elected and not before .Why have the criteria of upping the requirement to $500 million but exempt those from the Parliament. Why other Malays in Parliament did not stand for election? Singaporeans prefer a level playing field otherwise you can be sure there will be voices from our intelligent voters who have no chance to go for voting."