SINGAPORE — Singapore’s racial harmony has been tested by the recent spate of police reports made during the 2020 General Election (GE), said the country’s youngest political party Red Dot United (RDU) on Wednesday (8 July).
The party also urged Singaporeans not to succumb to politics drawn by racial lines.
“We cannot allow these incidents to fracture our society and divide us,” said the party’s candidate Nicholas Tang, 28, during its hour-long e-rally on its Facebook page.
Various police reports have been made in the past week, including two against Workers’ Party’s Raeesah Khan for alleged comments promoting enmity between races, and at least one against Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat for his remarks that older Singaporeans were not ready for a non-Chinese prime minister during a forum at the Nanyang Technological University last year.
Tang noted that while he enjoys “certain privileges” as a Chinese in Singapore, the colour of his skin should not preclude him and others from speaking about racial inequality.
Singapore cannot succumb to the type of identity politics that is rampant in the US, he stressed.
“Our vision for Singapore is one that is colour-blind where the colour of your skin matters no more than the colour of your hair...We are not just Chinese Singaporeans, Malay Singaporeans, or Indian Singaporeans. We are Singaporeans, and we bleed the same red and white.”
But having a “colour-blind society” does not mean forsaking ethnic traditions or cultures, he stressed.
Existing systems in Singapore, which may have worked well previously, must be re-examined to remove “race from the consciousness of our society”, added Tang. For instance, it is no longer enough to have “forced quotas” in residential estates with the vague hope that it will encourage social cohesion, he said.
“Our group representation constituency (GRC) system and reserve elections serve to reinforce the idea that we are an unequal society, unable to elect minorities into positions of power, despite the fact that the most popular politician in Singapore is (Senior) Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a minority,” he said.
The 12-member RDU, founded by former Progress Singapore Party members Ravi Philemon, 52, and Michelle Lee, 43, fielded five candidates to run in Jurong GRC – the only constituency where it will be contesting this GE.
Apart from the founders and Tang, the party’s candidates include theatre director Alec Tok Kim Yam, 55; and entrepreneur and author Liyana Dhamirah, 33.
The ‘Tharman factor’
Lee noted that many residents want to support and vote for the opposition party, but expressed their worries about a government, without Tharman.
Contesting Jurong GRC, RDU is up against a team led by 63-year-old Tharman, including Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry and Foreign Affairs Tan Wu Meng, 45; Rahayu Mahzam, 40; as well as new faces Shawn Huang, 38, and Xie Yao Quan, 35.
Xie replaced Ivan Lim, 42, who withdrew his candidacy three days before Nomination Day after criticism of his character emerged online.
The Jurong GRC, where Tharman has been a Member of Parliament (MP) since 2001, was the PAP’s best-performing constituency in GE2015, garnering 79.3 per cent of the vote share against the Singaporeans First team.
RDU secretary-general Philemon referred to DPM Heng’s comments on Tharman and pointed out, “If the PAP says someone cannot become a Prime Minister of Singapore because of his race, then they are doing a great disservice to the ideals of our pledge, ‘regardless of race, language or religion’.”
Citing a Yahoo News Singapore poll which ran in 2016, Lee said that despite Tharman being a popular choice among the masses for prime minister, “it does not matter” insofar as the selection process for a PM is concerned.
“This decision is not in your hands or mine. The PAP gave a certain reason. Many find this reason distasteful...It could be he’s a victim of his own success,” the party’s chairperson added.
“However, there is one way. And one way only in which your vote will matter. That is in the presidential election to come in 2023,” said Lee.
“This is a win-win situation with Red Dot United as your MPs and Tharman for president.”
Singaporeans first, in jobs and transparency
Tok noted that the hot topic of the supposed 10-million population “target”, later refuted as false by authorities, has eclipsed the real issue of whether “Singaporean workers are protected in their jobs...from foreign displacement”.
“Years and years of this relentless loose labour policy has led to our local workforce, taking on only the lousier jobs like Grab driving and tour guiding, while the natural aristocracy and their foreign corporate friends bring in labour from around the region to undercut our wages,” he added. “This must stop.”
Tok also noted said that instead of having proper debates with the opposition, the ruling PAP “alarm voters with fearmongering language” about minority incidents and “cast aspersions on the integrity of candidates”, such as Singapore Democratic Party chairman Dr Paul Tambyah.
“Instead, they divide Singaporeans by inciting fears by resorting to... issuing POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act) orders,” he added.
On the country’s reserves, Lee called for more clarity. “We are kept in the dark, the people, the press, academics, economists,” said Lee.
“This asymmetry of information, not only works against a robust system of good governance. It can also be used against what is in the best interests of the people,” she added.
She also spoke about the imbalances in checks and balances, with power lying “firmly in the hands of the PAP, and they will not hesitate to wield it”.
“There's only one solution to this imbalance, just as there’s one solution to a schoolyard bully. And that is, people,” Lee said.
Red Dot United will release a mini-charter, titled Red Dot Goes Green, solely to deal with the issues of climate change here. One of the party’s proposals is to create a National Climate Change Act, which will lay out strategies and initiatives for Singapore in climate change.
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