If The Straits Times and one of its editors Chua Mui Hoong are serious about understanding racism in Singapore and leading a discussion on it, they must have “the gumption to tackle head-on the racism of Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP”, said the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) senior editor Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh.
In a Facebook post addressing an article by ST titled ‘Racism in Singapore: Time to listen to minorities’ concerns’, Mr Vadaketh said that while he appreciates Ms Chua’s decision to interview interfaith and multiculturalism expert Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib for the article, there is a fundamental problem that must be addressed.
The said problem, he posited, is the glossing over of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP)’s “inherent racism, which is at the core of the issue in Singapore” by framing racism through the eyes of Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam.
“This includes not only Lee Kuan Yew’s clear and obvious racist beliefs, but also what is the developed world’s most racist policy: giving preference to ethnic Chinese migrants so that Singapore will always remain a Chinese-majority country,” said Mr Vadaketh.
He then said that Ms Chua had allowed Mr Shanmugam to get away with saying that “racism is not institutionalised”.
Mr Vadaketh asked Ms Chua if she does not consider the aforementioned policy a form of institutionalised racism.
“If you and The Straits Times are serious about understanding racism in Singapore and leading a discussion on it, you must have the gumption to tackle head on the racism of Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP.
“The beliefs that Chinese are genetically superior to Indians and Malays, and that Singapore’s success is dependent on having a Chinese supermajority, underpin racist attitudes in this country,” Mr Vadaketh stressed.
Mr Vadaketh used a quote from 1967 by the late Lee Kuan Yew, among other quotations by the founding prime minister to illustrate his point:
“Three women were brought to the Singapore General Hospital, each in the same condition and each needing a blood transfusion. The first, a Southeast Asian was given the transfusion but died a few hours later. The second, a South Asian was also given a transfusion but died a few days later. The third, an East Asian, was given a transfusion and survived. That is the X factor in development.”
More recently, then-Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Grace Fu said in Parliament in 2014 that Singapore gives preference to ethnic Chinese immigrants, said Mr Vadaketh.
Going back to his critique of the ST article, Mr Vadaketh noted that notwithstanding Ms Chua’s “earnest attempts” to discuss casual racism stereotyping, and online vitriol, the conversation will remain superficial if she is “unwilling or unable to talk honestly about the PAP’s own racist baggage”.
While he acknowledged that the PAP government tries to be race-neutral in many of its policies, he said that “when it comes to racism, the PAP’s record is a chequered one”.
Addressing both ST and Ms Chua, Mr Vadaketh said: “I would appreciate if you and The Straits Times did not play right into the party’s (presumed) desire to absolve itself of any blame for the current state of affairs.”
Mr Vadaketh also said that while some people may think it obvious that ST is “in bed with the PAP”, the optimist in him believes that there are many in the company “who will put country above party”.