The Constitution (Article 152) states three things when it comes to protection of race and religious minorities in Singapore. Namely, the government must:
• care for the interests of race and religious minorities
• exercise its functions in such manner as to recognise the special position of the Malays, and
• protect the political, educational, religious, economic, social and cultural interests of Malays
The SDA agrees that the rights of race and religious minorities are protected.
Such matters, however, do not always have clear-cut solutions.
And, if not handled delicately and with care, can spur deep division in Singapore.
The politics of race and religion have no place in Singapore, precisely because of this.
Whether it is allowing Muslim women in the uniformed services to don the tudung, or other racial or cultural issues, politics should not come into play.
Singaporeans do not have to look too far beyond our shores to see how racial politics can severely and unfairly disrupt lives and shatter friendships.
Rather, the SDA advocates for open dialogue between national leaders and religious leaders to come to a consensus, and strike a sustainable balance between preserving our common secular space and personal religious practices.
Keeping such dialogues out of the public eye is sensible – this denies troublemakers the opportunity to sow the seeds of chaos and animosity among Singaporeans.
However, in the interest of transparency and common understanding, the SDA believes that all national leaders be allowed to participate in such open dialogues about race and religious issues.
This includes all MPs elected by Singaporeans to be their representatives at a national level.
The ruling party, which happens to form the majority in government, should not be allowed to control the narrative as it pleases.
Only when Singaporeans’ elected representatives have full access to the same information can they make informed decisions in the interest of the people.
Without responsible dialogue and inclusivity, we will continue to see division in parliament, and the threat of such division spilling over to society at large.
SDA Chairman’s Office