You are lucky we let you live

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I usually don’t have much to say about Singapore Elections. The results, like any libel trial involving our senior political leaders, is a forgone conclusion. The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) is an expert at using the vast powers and resources of incumbency to its advantage and our opposition remains fragmented and too filled with different egos to focus on the main prize. Furthermore, if you work on the principle that elections are not won by opposition but lost by governments, the PAP government, while having made some serious mistakes, has yet to do enough to lose the election.

Having said that, it’s been unfortunate that a member of the ruling party has decided to put display a very disturbing attitude towards ethnic minorities. The background is as simple. Dr. Tan Wu Meng, a member of parliament (MP) for the ruling party took issue with the playwright, Alfian Sa’at.

I must admit that I’ve never read Alfian Sa’at’s works. However, from what I’ve heard of him, he’s by no means a violent revolutionary nor has he ever suggested that he’d support any damage to Singapore. What he has been is critical of certain government policies and certain members of high society. In short, Mr. Sa’at is not much different from the rest of us when it comes to discussing politics. He is merely more vocal. He was described by Professor Tommy Koh, one of our most respected diplomats as a “loving critic” of Singapore.

Dr. Tan, however, decided that Mr. Sa’at was not a loving critic but a dangerous “anti-Singaporean” and when Mr. Pritam Singh, leader of the Workers Party (the only opposition party with seats in parliament), defended Mr. Sa’at in parliament, Dr. Tan decided to go for the proverbial jugular and in doing so, put on display one of the worst displays of “Chinese Privilege” ever seen:

Dr. Tan’s point is this simple – he, as part of the ethnic Malay minority in Singapore was ungrateful for the fact that Chinese majority Singapore had given him an education and allowed him to make a living. The argument was simple, had he been born as an ethnic minority elsewhere, he wouldn’t live the life he lives or even been allowed to live.

Nobody denies that ethnic minorities don’t have it easy. In Southeast Asia, the ethnic Chinese minorities, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia have had to live with, at best legal discrimination or been at the wrong end of a violent mob, as happened to Indonesia’s Chinese back in 1998.

While Singapore’s ethnic Malays have not been on the wrong end of violent clashes, Dr. Tan misses the point. Just because ethnic minorities get it worse elsewhere, it doesn’t make treatment of our own ethnic minorities right nor does it make Dr. Tan’s attitude correct.

For a start, the attitude of “You the ethnic minority are lucky” goes against the ethos of what Singapore is supposed to be. I cannot stress enough that the ruling party, which Dr. Tan is a part of wrote our national pledge as “Regardless of Race, Language or Religion.” Our national pledge is based on us being “Singaporean” first rather than our ethnicity or faith.

Sure, racial prejudice does exist on a personal level and you can’t expect these prejudices to vanish overnight. There is no doubt that ethnic minorities will have to deal with personal prejudices on a personal basis. However, you’d expect that elected representatives of the people would have a duty to combat such prejudices in the public sphere rather than to use the fact that ethnic minorities are just that and to use that as a threat.

Mr. Sa’at was educated in Singapore and makes a living here. Isn’t that the right of every citizen of Singapore? Why is that even an issue?

I am sure that there are plenty of issues that one can take up with Mr. Sa’at but the fact that he’s an ethnic minority that had the good fortune of being able to receive an education and make a living in Singapore should not be one of them.

The leader of the ruling party should demonstrate that we are serious about being “regardless of race, language or religion” and make Dr. Tan pay with his seat in Parliament. There should be no room for politicians to use the race card in a progressive society.

 

Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.

 

 

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15 Responses to “You are lucky we let you live”

  • Survey recently:

    No politicians in singapore can write better than you ,enjoy reading….
    Singapore politicians can only write …. I refer to your letter dated, blah blah blah

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  • Citizens treated like slaves:

    You went to primary school in Singapore? You have enjoyed privileges and you must pay back!

    What a shitty statement and attitude by the gov.

    This is applied to everyone, including so called racial majority groups.

    In all other countries, providing education is an obligation of the state. In some countries, the states even pay their students.

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  • PAP is a Serious Problem:

    I believe Dr Tan has definitely run foul of SG racial laws, of which as a lay person I wouldn’t know where he has offended.

    Shockingly instead of being taken to task, he was even given the support by an even more senior and experienced PAP law maker who even said there are legitimacies in going after Alfian and Pritam.

    Did we citizens hear and read right?

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  • HiFive Hyflux:

    ”Hyflux won an international competition to design and build this plant. It reflects Hyflux’s capabilities in this rapidly growing industry because theirs was the most unique and cost-efficient design. They generate electricity on-site and have reduced the cost of producing desalinated water. And it also was able to build the plant on budget and in record time. So I congratulate Ms Olivia Lum and her team! Well done!” PM
    18 September 2013
    Where Hyflux now?
    Where Olivia now?

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  • PAP CLOSE DOWN:

    There were some occasions when thee MDA or NAC cut funding for the company that stage Sa’at’s plays.

    He’s says he’s nobody. But he also got attitude like elitist. A lot of these local theater people think they are damn grand. Serves them right to get a funding cut.

    Although they do put on the occasionalplay aabout opposition parties and dissidents, they also por lam pah PAP. Becuase the funding comes from the Nationaal Arts Council.

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  • Treat everyone fairly:

    Treat every Citizen fairly…
    Give everybody the same liberty..including the right to dissent.
    We cannot agree on every thing…as long no harm to National interest.

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  • patriot of TUMASIK:

    Nothing as Racist and anti-others…

    when the evil bast**d said PUBLICLY that Singapore is NOT ready for a Non-Chinese to be PM, echoed by the idiotic son and the possible seat warmer with a Lightning Bolt in his Head to remind him that Karma is REAL and Not on his shirt lapel…

    Bearing in MIND that we had a Chief(forerunner to Prime) Minister name, David Saul Marshall an Iraqi Jew the least of the Minorities in Singapore

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  • What are you Tang Li?:

    While at university, Dr. Tan Wu Meng was the President of the Cambridge Union Society in 2001. He represented Cambridge University as a debater, reaching the Grand Final of the World Universities Debating Championships in Stellenbosch in 2003 where he was ranked the Best Individual Speaker of the tournament.

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  • Trust the words?:

    HiFive Hyflux:
    ”Hyflux won an international competition to design and build this plant. It reflects Hyflux’s capabilities in this rapidly growing industry because theirs was the most unique and cost-efficient design. They generate electricity on-site and have reduced the cost of producing desalinated water. And it also was able to build the plant on budget and in record time. So I congratulate Ms Olivia Lum and her team! Well done!” PM
    18 September 2013
    Where Hyflux now?
    Where Olivia now?

    Disgusted! PUB gotten free of charge Tuaspring free of charge from the blood and sweat of retirees. Many companies were helped out through govt loan but not HYFLUX when it was commended by our PM.

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  • @ patriot Tumasik:

    And David Marshall was very impressed with the chivalry of Dr. Goh Keng Swee when the latter cordially invited him to visit the JTC development at Jurong Island, although, as David recalled, the Prime Minister was rather contrary to it. You know, LKY even had Mr.
    Marshall’s Singapore Lions statues at the Merdeka Bridge removed once PAP had come into power.

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  • opposition dude:

    Occasionally some statement about our minorities will surface from PAP. Chief amongst the culprits was Lee Kayu. Never one to apologise for what he has had said since sorry isn’t in his vocabulary who doesn’t remember his “Put a malay in charge of a gun battalion” statement or “Malays do not makan together with other races”

    And when someone pointed out to him that our malays DO IN FACT makan with other races all he said was he stood corrected. Not even a sorry, I made a mistake. Is that arrognace or what I ask you?

    So now Tan Wu Meng is in the firing line. Just like how the presidential election was I hope more people highlight just how the PAP views minorities.

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  • Be REAL:

    Tan goon meng is nothing but smug alec farting to score brownie points just b4 erection.

    KNNBCCB

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  • Errr.........:

    What are you Tang Li?:
    While at university, Dr. Tan Wu Meng was the President of the Cambridge Union Society in 2001. He represented Cambridge University as a debater, reaching the Grand Final of the World Universities Debating Championships in Stellenbosch in 2003 where he was ranked the Best Individual Speaker of the tournament.

    So what?

    What has this chap contributed so far other than throwing pot shots ?

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  • patriot of TUMASIK:

    @ patriot Tumasik:
    And David Marshall was very impressed with the chivalry of Dr. Goh Keng Swee when the latter cordially invited him to visit the JTC development at Jurong Island, although, as David recalled, the Prime Minister was rather contrary to it. You know, LKY even had Mr.
    Marshall’s Singapore Lions statues at the Merdeka Bridge removed once PAP had come into power.

    David Marshall…A TRUE PATRIOT who names his Home @Tanah Merah Temusik…campers @ Tanah Merah in the 60s will remember that there is only a freshwater spring near his home and campers had to wait in line for collection…TRUE to his Patriotic Heart he installed a Tap at his Gate for campers…Lie Con You???…took over Marshall’s Home and sealed the spring and built CHANGI AIRPORT in its place

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  • AristoCATs - a Reminder !:

    What are you Tang Li?:
    While at university, Dr. Tan Wu Meng was the President of the Cambridge Union Society in 2001.

    -
    Wow, another timely reminder from the AristoCAT. . .
    -
    Over 50years, Papaya has mastered the art of “marketing”.
    -
    Old marketing slogan – “We are the AristoCATs. . .”
    New Marketing slogan { politically correct } – “Kinder, gentler, inclusive – we are with you. . .”
    -
    But, do leopards change their spots?
    -
    Dr Tan no name,
    Ivan Lim

    Recent actions revealed – NO . . .
    -

    Core belief of AristoCATs – Know your place

    “Remember your place in society before you engage in political debate…
    … people should not take on those in authority as ‘equals’.”
    — Former Foreign Minister George Yeo (1994)
    -
    They are the AristoCATs

    We are the Peasants. . .

    -
    Remember the Ballot Box !

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