Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s (PM Lee) National Day Rally speech made special reference to the Malays in Singapore. While he praised the achievements of the Malays, he appealed to more within the Malay community to step up and volunteer their time with community institutions such as Mendaki. He also made it a point to highlight the importance of mutual respect in Singapore which is a multi racial and multi religious country.
If it is so crucial for us to maintain religious and racial harmony, why are community support events still based on religious and racial groupings? Why are we reinforcing the racial groupings in community outreach events? We are one country regardless of race or religion. Surely help groups should be organised along needs and not race or religion? Why the implication that more Malays should step up and volunteer within their community? Shouldn’t all Singaporeans volunteer with the needy in Singapore? Race, religion etc should be irrelevant.
While PM Lee stresses the importance of national cohesion, he also reinforces the racial and religious segregation. I find this a head scratching contradiction.
Traditionally, the Singapore government has relied on racial community groups to take care of their own. This saves the government the expense and the trouble of having to provide welfare and the like. While this approach may have worked in the early years, my summation is that this is now outdated and obsolete. There are more and more mixed race couples and offspring. People are also less religious than before and may not necessarily have an affiliation with a religion that they can go to for help. With this new demographic, it is not so easy for people to be streamed into different help groups. What then?
In the 60s, we were an immigrant community of different races trying to make a country work. Fast forward 50 years, we are now one nation, one people, one Singapore. There should be an increased focus on building support networks based on needs and not race or religion.It is therefore disappointing that PM Lee still feels that community help should be organised along the narrow confines of race and religion. Surely, this is not very innovative on their part? Why pay homage to the concept of innovation when the government is unable to see that Singaporean society has changed. In fact, it needs to be more focused on a Singaporean identity and not inherited race or religions.
Why then are we still sticking to old social norms?