- Sleepwalking to disharmony?
- Terrorism in Southeast Asia and a new order
- FZ Says: Mahathir can sidestep RCI, but history will be his judge
- Time for reflection
- In defence of Fathul Bari
- Sabah Illegal ICs: The Buck Stops with Mahathir
Posted: 12 Sep 2013 02:52 PM PDT
The survey makes it quite clear that, for most Singaporeans, race and religion still matters. But let us not be fixated by them. We all have multiple identities, with context determining when one identity is more relevant at any given time.
Let us see, rather, how we can further strengthen our civic identity as Singaporeans — this must be the over-arching identity that takes precedence. Let us endeavour to appreciate and celebrate our commonalities, even as we manage the differences.
Eugene KB Tan, todayonline.com
Independent Singapore was born out of the political quest for civic identity and loyalty to trump narrow sectarian identities. But are we now sleepwalking to disharmony, even as we continue to affirm the value of multiracialism in Singapore?
This provocative question is pertinent in light of the findings from Indicators of Racial and Religious Harmony, a joint Institute of Policy Studies and OnePeople.sg survey. The survey is probably the most comprehensive study on the state of ethnic relations here: Generally healthy, although there are areas of concern to pay attention to.
After close to 50 years of nation building, multiracialism cannot be just a mere slogan or a factual descriptor of the presence of different races. It has to be about the fundamental commitment to fair and equal treatment of all races at all levels of society. Beyond our laws, public policies and institutions being race-blind, Singaporeans have to be committed to these values.
The survey demonstrated that we did well in indicators that had a strong public sphere/space element. However, we did not do as well in indicators that had a closer nexus to the private sphere and how we viewed Singaporeans of other races.
TENSIONS CAN BE HEALTHY
Singaporeans appreciate and value social harmony, denominated in the survey by the absence of inter-racial and religious tension. But this premium on harmony need not mean that there must always be an absence of disagreements and unhappiness, which are inevitable in our heterogeneous society in the throes of socio-economic transformation.
Unless it poses a clear and present danger, tension can be healthy and should not be seen as something that needs suppressing. The process of managing conflict is important: How we seek to restore equilibrium can either be instrumental (harmony at all cost) or purposive — in the latter, we strive to improve our understanding and attend to the underlying causes of tension.
Don't get me wrong — harmony is to be preferred over conflict. But let us not valorise harmony such that tension is portrayed solely as a threat. This prevents us from using it as an opportunity for meaningful engagement.
TOLERANCE IS FRAGILE
Have we learnt the lessons of multiracialism and harmony well, but without having imbibed the core values of multiracialism?
The four indicators where we did not fare as well (but still positive overall) suggest a lack of meaningful engagement or interest in colour-blindness, intercultural understanding and interaction.
If our harmony is built on tolerance only, then our ethnic relations are fragile and might not withstand severe stresses, such as in the event of a terrorist attack or a prolonged economic crisis.
As such, we should be concerned about the minority perception of exclusion and discrimination in our society. For example, close to 20 per cent of respondents believed that Indians and Malays had to work harder compared to other races to have a basic, decent life in Singapore.
Slightly more than 30 per cent of respondents believed that Indians and Malays had to work harder to reach top positions in their organisations. The undermining of our meritocratic ethos subverts our multiracial credentials.
A robust multiracialism is predicated on our having cross-cutting ties. It is worrying that only 45 per cent of respondents had at least one close friend of another race.
What is astonishing is that almost 80 per cent of respondents either somewhat agree, or agree/strongly agree that when they know a person's race, they have a good idea of what some of their behaviour and views are like!
Collectively, these findings suggest that we know how to conduct ourselves in the public sphere that is aligned with the multiracial stance. But, in the private sphere, the innermost thoughts and values that we hold may imperil multiracialism, since they invariably affect how we will act, particularly in a crisis.
It is these enclaves of closed minds — in which we seek to exclude others who are different or to exclude ourselves from others — that will work against the endeavour to build a cohesive society. We really need to go beyond tolerance and forbearance to seek genuine understanding and protection of Singapore's diversity.
Read more at : http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/sleepwalking-disharmony
Posted: 12 Sep 2013 02:21 PM PDT
Posted: 12 Sep 2013 02:15 PM PDT
However, while Mahathir may appear to be untouchable under the current circumstances no matter what the purported transgression is, his reputation in the eyes of a discerning section of the public is already sealed in view of the damaging information revealed through the latest RCI.
Posted: 12 Sep 2013 01:12 PM PDT
I believe more Malaysians, especially the Chinese, should show their trust in the Prime Minister if we want to help him be more effective. Sometimes we are unsure if he will be bolder if we give him undivided support, but if he really were an extremist then he would not have even bothered to try out the 1Malaysia idea.
Zaid Ibrahim, The Star
To give moderate politics a chance to succeed in this country, we have to espouse the principles on which this nation was founded.
Posted: 12 Sep 2013 12:15 PM PDT
With his words public, I can convince how perhaps we do not really need ulamas if what they know seem mostly irrelevant, and has not much practical value.
Zurairi AR, MMO
It is slightly embarrassing when somebody talks about a topic of which he has no clue. It is, however, pretty hilarious when Islamic clerics do so.
Case in point, Fathul Bari Mat Jahya, a popular preacher with ILMU, the Umno-backed wing of young ulamas (religious scholars).
During the weekend, Fathul Bari took to his column in Malay daily Sinar Harian to defend the recent fuel subsidy cut.
Granted, increasing fuel pump prices was bound to be a very unpopular move with the public, but Putrajaya did explain it as a way to reduce its ballooning deficit.
Not so for Fathul Bari, whose attempt to appease the masses is to explain that any increase in fuel prices is indeed "Allah's will."
According to him, any increase in the prices of goods is just a matter of God "testing" his believers in this fleeting material world.
He also seemed to have suggested that it is useless to strive for cheaper goods, for who are we to know what plans God has for us in the future?
This was, perhaps unsurprisingly, not Fathul Bari's first and only attempt at justifying socio-political issues with such wonderful excuses.
Earlier this year, just weeks before the May polls, Fathul Bari had also claimed that Malaysians get their leaders as a result of "Allah's will."
Going by this trend, it would not be too far-fetched to imagine what Fathul Bari's next few columns in the future will be like: "GST is Allah's will", "interest rate hike is Allah's will", and maybe "the property bubble is Allah's will."
Ridiculous as he may be, however, I support Fathul Bari's freedom to speak his mind, unlike some who felt he is not worthy to talk about our economy.
Posted: 12 Sep 2013 11:59 AM PDT
Mahathir's disavowal of knowledge about its happening does not exonerate him. He was the CEO of Malaysia. Ignorance is no defence. He has to take responsibility.
Kee Thuan Chye
Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad drew considerable laughter last Wednesday when he gave testimony at the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants in Sabah. One hopes the laughter was laced with irony and scepticism.
Irony and scepticism because it seems unlikely, going by reports of the proceedings, that anyone listening to some of the things he said could find them acceptable.
The most unacceptable was his saying that he had not heard about Project IC or Project M (for Mahathir) until only recently, and that the Government could not be held responsible for the issuance of illegal identity cards (ICs) to immigrants who had entered Sabah illegally.
"These illegal immigrants may have been issued the identity cards erroneously or it may have been the wrongdoing of certain low-ranking civil servants," he said, expressly passing the blame on to others.
Well, if it were a matter of only a few hundred ICs, we might say these civil servants acted corruptly on their own and out of their personal greed, but a key witness has earlier testified at the RCI that in 1993 alone, about 100,000 ICs were issued to immigrants in Sabah. One hundred thousand in one year is a staggering number. How likely is that to have been a private enterprise undertaken by "low-ranking civil servants"?
It is a requisite of leadership that the leader is accountable for what his underlings do. Especially when it is something serious – in fact, treasonous. We're not talking here about giving out free food vouchers or concert tickets. We're talking about giving out citizenships illegally. Mahathir's disavowal of knowledge about its happening does not exonerate him. He was the CEO of Malaysia. Ignorance is no defence. He has to take responsibility.
Besides, it's extremely unlikely that he was not aware of it at the time when so many ICs were given out, under what was apparently an organised programme, and leaders of Sabah political parties were making a hue and cry about it. The prime minister does not live in a cocoon, much as Mahathir would want us to believe.
We can also bet our bottom ringgit that he could not have found out about Project IC or Project M only recently when the issue has been out in the media for years, with specific naming of the project. A man like Mahathir who is so well-informed of developments must surely have heard of Project IC or Project M way before "recently".
In fact, people were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for alleged involvement in the issuance of identity cards to foreigners, like Hassnar Ebrahim (who was arrested in 1988), Akjan Ali Mohamad (in 1995), Ramli Kamaruddin (in 1995), Mohd Nasir Sugip (in 1995), Kee Dzulkifly Kee Abdul Jalil (in 1995) and Abdul Rauf Sani (in 1996).
Most of them have testified at the RCI and admitted issuing tens of thousands of ICs illegally. Some have also alleged that they received instructions to do this from then deputy home minister Megat Junid Megat Ayub. They have also claimed that they carried out their operations in the Kampung Pandan home of Aziz Shamsuddin, Mahathir's then political secretary.
They were detained when Mahathir, apart being from the premier, was also minister of home affairs. He held the portfolio from 1986 to 1999. In that capacity, he would have known about the arrests and the reasons for them. He probably signed the detention orders himself.
So how could he say to the RCI, "Hassnar? I have never heard of him. I am also not aware that he had been arrested under the Internal Security Act."?
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