sda rishi sunak

Picking PMs: Unfair of the PAP to Paint Singaporeans as Inherently Racist

Dear friends,

The SDA congratulates Rishi Sunak on his appointment as British Prime Minister.

Mr Sunak makes history as the nation’s first minority-race prime minister, and its youngest leader since 1812.

There are people who hail Mr Sunak’s appointment as a triumph of democracy, meritocracy and diversity – similar to 2008 when Barack Obama was elected as POTUS.

There are also others, most notably the loud voices from the PAP camp, who claim that Mr Sunak will “struggle” to win the next election because “human beings in this world who are cosmopolitan and race-blind, are in the minority.”

Such criticism should be reserved, rather ironically, for Singapore’s ruling party.

Because even though a majority of Singaporeans are cosmopolitan and race blind, the PAP continues to turn a deaf ear to our wishes, and insult us for being implicitly racist.

The PAP leadership has been saying for decades that Singapore is not ready for a non-Chinese prime minister.

From Lee Kuan Yew in 1988 when he glossed over deputy prime minister S Dhanabalan for the position, to 2016 when Heng Swee Keat was proclaimed as heir to the throne (only to be unceremoniously dropped later).

The PAP blames Singaporeans for its decisions. But is this fair?

In 2007, the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies found that over 91 per cent of all races polled said they would accept a prime minster of another race.

In 2016, a survey conducted by market research consultancy Blackbox found that Deputy Prime Minister Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam was the top choice among Singaporeans for the prime minister post.

Around 70 percent of respondents chose him.

And despite respondents given the option to choose more than one candidate, less than 10 percent bothered to give their support to then-National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who now is expected to becoming our next prime minister.

Looking further back, there is even less evidence that Singaporeans care about skin colour, and will vote in the person they think is best for the job.

Recall Murali Pillai’s 2016 win over the SDP leader Chee Soon Juan in Bukit Batok.

Recall the late JB Jeyaretnam’s election victories in the 1980s.

Even further back? In the 1955 General Election, these minority candidates won their seats by beating Chinese opponents – Ahmad bin Ibrahim, Anthony Rebeiro Lazarous, David Marshall and Madai Puthan Damodaran Nair.

Yet, the PAP clings on to this blinkered view that Singaporeans are inherently racist.

We’re not.

And it appears that when it comes to the ruling party, skin colour becomes a factor in how far you can go in your public service career in Singapore.

So much for all that talk about meritocracy.

Interestingly, when it suits them, the PAP reserves a Presidential Election for Malay candidates only.

This is what happens during the selection of a prime minister – ministers nominate a leader based on consensus, another meeting is then held for PAP MPs to show their support the Cabinet’s nomination, and the PAP CEC will decide on who will become the next PM.

So, who’s the one that isn’t ready for a non-Chinese prime minister – Singaporeans, or the PAP?

As the world moves towards greater acceptance of diversity, Singaporeans must ask whether we still want such a close-minded party, shackled by its outdated worldview and refusal to embrace change, to lead us.

Especially one that blames Singaporeans for its own shortcomings.

Desmond Lim
Singapore Democratic Alliance

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