Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan
In a recent forum at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) attended by more than 700 students, Minister Heng Swee Keat tried to convince Singaporeans why we are not ready for a non-Chinese Prime Minister. To many observers, this is just another way of enunciating why the popular Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was not considered acceptable as a potential PM after PM Lee Hsien Loong steps down.
In reply to a question from Assistant Professor Walid Abdullah Minister Heng explained that based on his own observation, older Singaporeans would not accept a minority race PM. This acceptance of anecdotal evidence is uncharacteristic for someone trained as an economist.
This pronouncement is problematic and does not stand to scrutiny in many ways:
1. During GE 2015 Jurong GRC helmed by DPM Tharman won a thumping 79.28% of the votes. This is the highest vote count and even beats PM Lee’s Ang Mo Kio GRC which was a close second at 78.6%.
2. PAP’s Murali Pillai, in the Bukit Batok by-election (May 2016), won by a vote count of 61.21% to Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) leader Chee Soon Juan’s 38.79%.
3. In a 2016 Yahoo poll, 70% of Singaporeans preferred Tharman to be the next PM ; much higher than the next choice who got 25%.
4. Assuming Minister Heng is correct that above 65 year old Singaporeans are not ready for a non-Chinese PM (this is not confirmed), why do we have to pander to the misguided racist views of this minority , who according to Statistics Singapore comprise about 16% of the population ie 548000 out of 3.47 million Singaporeans? This is especially as Minister Heng had confirmed for himself that the majority in the NTU audience were more than ready for a minority leader.
I am saddened that instead of showing moral courage, for reasons known only to itself, the government has chosen to repeat unsubstantiated observations to deny Singaporeans the service of an eminently qualified Singaporean in DPM Tharman at the highest level in government.
This seriously undermines our confidence in the leadership and make many skeptical that the part in our National Pledge that says “pledge ourselves as one united people, regardless of race, language or religion” are just words for school children to parrot day after day.
This is a letter written by a member of public and it does not represent the publication’s view on the matter.