Singapore was in shock this morning over a questioner in a public discussion of race relations asserted Chinese primacy over other groups.
The problematic question on why the majority – Chinese Singaporeans – should not have the right to decide the country’s direction was directed at Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, who this week published a clip of the exchange that included him replying that he was “sad” such a question was asked as it went against the nation’s multiracial values.
“Chinese Singaporeans, the largest group in Singapore, are now asked to be sensitive to the minority, but shouldn’t the largest group have the rights to decide on Singapore’s direction, such as education, language to be used like other countries?” the question read by another panelist asked.
Many people reacting to the clip in embarrassment noted how tone deaf the question was.
“Doesn’t mean the race majority has ‘rights’ to demand anything. That’s just a bad attitude to have,” Mingli Lin wrote.
“[W]aaaaa this person’s question doesn’t represent all Chinese in Singapore,” Scarlettjy wrote.
“[T]he question is so backward thinking,” Cochieman wrote.
“The audacity to ask this question,” Fateha Ali wrote.
The question was raised during a panel discussion about race relations organized late last month by government organization Reach and Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaobao. Panelists included Senior Minister of State Sim Ann, lawyer Hee Theng Fong, president of the Chinese Clan Associations Tan Aik Hock and Chinese actor Tay Ping Hui.
While Singapore’s government promotes an image of racial harmony, that has been undercut by a stream of racist incidents involving attacks on minority groups. Those incidents have prompted outrage and calls for Chinese Singaporeans, the dominant group comprising roughly three-quarters of the population, to be more sensitive and aware.
There was no audience at the event, but panelists at one point read aloud submitted questions.
For his part, Shanmugam responded by bringing up late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s vision of respecting all cultures and trudging toward multiculturalism.
“I will say I’m quite sad that this question has been asked … I think it’s contrary to everything we stand for. It’s contrary to everything, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and his first generation put up, they cut down on any kind of chauvinism whether Chinese, Malay or Indian they stamped out, built this little island into the shining jewel that it is today,” he said.
He said Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965 so that “no one race will dominate” and the majority Chinese would also suffer from a divided community.
“I hope we never go down that route because Singapore will be destroyed, demolished, and the Chinese will suffer as well in the long run because their racial fault lines will be deeper, you will have a permanent underclass based on race, and that means that the country as a whole will not prosper. So let’s try and avoid this sort of thinking,” he said.
Other stories you should check out:
Electric feels: Tesla zooms into Raffles City showroom
Singapore commends train staff who saved girl from tracks
‘Are you a pervert?’ actor asks Singapore officers who surprised his ‘groggy’ wife at home