We are going to have an unprecedented Presidential Election this year, and without going into too much details on the politics, we will have only Malay candidates for presidency.
Why it matters to us as Singaporeans
It never mattered to me in the past who becomes President, since the level is so far detached from where I stand. Now that I am older, and I’ve seen how the President discharges the duty to represent Singapore, I realised that who we pick, is important.
This is more significant, as in the last President Election, we have 4 Tans and all but one, comes with their own level of stupidity. It is ridiculous to have anyone else but Mr Tony Tan as our president.
The ‘reserved’ election
So when this time around, the government has decided that the election will only be open to the Malays; as it has been a long time since we have a Malay as the President of Singapore. The last Malay president was also Singapore’s first President, Yusof Ishak. More than 50 years ago!
Without going into too much details, I wasn’t comfortable with this concept, I mean, if our Head of State has to be democratically elected, why must it be only reserved for one specific race?
It is not about being racist here, the topic might become to sensitive when we don’t think through carefully. I was toying with ‘meritocracy’, and this usually means “may the best person get the seat, irrespective of race, language or religion.” This is in line with our pledge, and I thought what the government did, contravene the Singapore Pledge we say and hold so dear.
I was wrong
I voice this out with my friends and they argued the realities of the ‘reserved President Election’. It is a necessary evil, and despite of being ‘undemocratic’ in appearance, it is most equitable in practice.
We need to understand, boys, that Singapore, while being touted as a multi-racial society, living in peace and harmony, is not always like this and will not continue to be like this, if we are not careful in making our executive decision, today.
Yes, we are multi-racial, BUT, the population is predominantly Chinese. It will always be the case in any society; there will be a major group, and other minor sub group(s). While we want to practice democracy, and meritocracy; statistics is against those who are in the minor group. It is the same, when we compare our talent pool to that of China, we have a population of 6 million, at best, they have 1.3 BILLION, who will have more genius? No prize for guessing the right answer!
So statistically, we have to acknowledge that it might probably be a long time coming before we have a Malay, or Indian Presidential candidate who will come forward and put in his/her best foot to become a President of Singapore. It is a big hat to wear and it must not only be given to those who have a statistical advantage.
That said, being race specific for this presidential election is important. The role of our President, must be above all, one that unites the country. That goes beyond meritocracy as a mere lip service. Every race has to have a chance to become a President, and since the past few Presidents has been non-Malays, this time around, we need to make sure someone from our Malay community, gets a chance. This is being fair, in our Singapore context.
Regardless of Race, Language or Religion
Like many, I hijacked this phrase from our Singapore pledge, and argued that this reserved election is not ‘right”. Actually it is, in its true spirit, acted in the best interest of the Singapore, regardless of race, language and religion.
How shall I argue this?
It is a profound and deep thought process. We have this Malay-only Election precisely for the fact that we are deeply embedded in this ethos. We cannot let the Presidency becomes dictated by only one race. We need to look at the presidency as a position to give all race a fair chance of representation and voice. If we look at the now, of course, this election appears to run against the grain of our pledge. If we look at the future, in a longitudinal sense, we are walking the talk, of being a multi-racial society, and my boys, nation building is not just about talking, it is about a very, very long walk.
So as a member of the dominant race here in Singapore, it is easy for me to promote meritocracy, without taking into consideration the hopes and aspirations of our Malay, Indian and Eurasian countrymen, they have been waiting in line patiently for their turn to be represented, and when the system works against them, due to a statistical disadvantage, we need to tweak the system, so that we can be fair to everyone, that is the true spirit of our Singapore Pledge.
So let’s not look at it like it is only reserved for the Malays, granted that for what ever freak results, that we end up not having a Chinese president, for the next 50 years, the presidential election will then be reserved, for the Chinese. Well, I don’t think I’d be around to see that happens, so remember this writing, long after I am gone. Everything in Singapore is not an entitlement, especially those of State property and position, while there is meritocracy in the way the government works, the policy has to consider a criteria of ‘internal equity’, for Singapore to prosper. Therefore, think of our presidency as a ‘Shared Presidency’, no one race will dominate that position forever, every race will get a share in taking that seat, and become the President of Singapore, a figure all Singaporeans look up to and endear.