WP youth forum calls for review of race-based govt policies

Two speakers at a Workers’ Party (WP) youth forum on race issues on Sunday called for the institution of anti-discrimination laws, as well as a re-look at some of the government’s key race-based policies.

“There has been some lobby for anti-discrimination laws, but Singapore does not yet have any specific anti-discrimination legislation, even though the Constitution actually guarantees no discrimination,” said independent civil activist Nizam Ismail, one of two panel speakers alongside recent WP member and lawyer Terence Tan.

Speaking at the WP YouthQuake forum held at the party headquarters in Syed Alwi Road, Nizam and Tan raised the issue of race classification in Singaporean identity cards, and the policies that are built upon the classification — something in Nizam’s view is increasingly becoming problematic with Singapore’s ever-more cosmopolitan society and the rise of inter-racial, inter-national marriages here.

“If we see 6.9 million people by 2030 or more, it will be a very different Singapore,” he said. “There will be a very cosmopolitan society, there’ll be people from all over the world, and your CMIO (Chinese, Malay, Indian, Others) model, which is already so problematic at this stage, will become utterly meaningless in 2030, because there’s no way you can put people in CMIO.

“So what happens to the rest of your race-based government policies that you have? It makes it even more meaningless,” he added.

Spotlight on race-based policies


The two highlighted examples of race-based policies to include the Group Representative Constituency (GRC) system, as well as the HDB ethnic integration programme, both of which are affirmative actions that ensure sufficient minority representation, and in the latter initiative, the prevention of racial enclaves in certain residential areas.

“People will question (in the case of GRCs) whether someone coming in comes in on his own merit or because he has an easy passage... so it creates conceptual difficulty because effectively, you are having an exception to (the ruling party’s) meritocratic principles in the GRC system,” said Nizam.

Nizam also noted that where inter-racial marriages are concerned, the order in which races are listed also impacts their treatment under the HDB ethnic integration policy.

“If you call yourself Chinese-Indian, you are treated as Chinese for the purposes of the EIP, but if you call yourself Indian-Chinese, then you are treated as an Indian. To me, it’s totally meaningless because this is a case where you have an immediate policy implication that has a dollars-and-cents (outcome) but that depends on how you are classified in your IC,” he said.

“Race is institutionalised in Singapore. It’s there in your ICs. Government policies talk about race, and that very descriptor in your IC is necessary for the government to implement a lot of their policies,” he added. “These policies actually accentuate differences and make it easier for stereotyping to happen.”

Ethnic community self-help groups questioned


Both speakers also questioned the relevance and usefulness of ethnic community self-help groups, which were initially formed to provide focused educational assistance to Singaporeans of specific races — these include Mendaki, SINDA and CDAC.

“It encourages a cultural deficiency fallacy, and what this means is that you create the perception that maybe there’s something about Malays and that’s why they need special help in terms of education — that there’s something inherently wrong with them,” said Nizam. “In my view, these community-based self-help groups tend to reinforce those stereotypes.”

Nizam argued further that these groups, alongside affiliated volunteer organisations, lack the expertise and experience to deal with the complexity of issues that educational difficulty and disadvantages stem from.

“The education problem is just one aspect of a whole set of complex problems, so for intervention to be really meaningful, you don’t just conduct tuition classes and think everything will be well,” he said. “You need to also devise social programmes to help the parents, to assist them in financial management, to make them realise the importance of education and social mobility and to keep motivating the students that there is room for them to do well in the system.”

Tan added that the existence of self-help groups accentuate the differences between the different races, when in his view, this is not necessary.

“Could we have a slightly more homogenous construct where potentially any Singaporean is deserving of financial or educational assistance? (Could) we target it from that perspective?” he asked.

Nizam also noted that the efforts of Mendaki, in particular, have not quite yielded “meaningful results” for students in the Malay community.

“I don’t think the system has reduced the gap between Malay students and non-Malay students, and it just hasn’t worked... and the question is whether you’re still going to have another 30 years where you see those lines (charting academic performance by race), and the Malay line keeping at the bottom,” he said. “Even for this year, some of the gaps are widening... because in my view you are not really addressing the core problem when you have the approach that (self-help groups) take, which is purely education.”

Employment

Turning to the issue of jobs, Nizam said existing race-based guidelines are not enforceable at work and a lack of legislation in this area will not encourage fairer practices.

“So if you think about it, there’s a disconnect. The Constitution, as the supreme law of the land, is supposed to govern all other laws in Singapore, but yet we are shying away from having a specific anti-discrimination law,” he added.

Nizam shared the reasons given by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices, which cited experiences in other countries that do have such laws to show that “legislation alone may not adequately change mindsets in this area”, adding that “employment relations are complex, and anti-discrimination legislation makes the labour market more rigid and less competitive”.

“But if you think about it, how effective can that be when you talk about enforceability and having consistent application? That argues for the presence of anti-discrimination laws,” he said.

  • Treasure trove of British newsreels reveals Top Gear's ancestors 12 hours ago
    Treasure trove of British newsreels reveals Top Gear's ancestors

    Long after television grew to dominate American and British homes, newsreel producer British Pathé kept at it, documenting the news of the day until finally ceasing production of new short films in 1970 after 60 years of effort. Last week, all of British Pathé's 85,000 films were put online — including dozens of fascinating, rare and often weird car films that resemble nothing so much as a jet-age Top Gear.

  • Nissan tests self-cleaning paint that could make car washes obsolete 14 hours ago
    Nissan tests self-cleaning paint that could make car washes obsolete

    During this vile, never-ending winter, motorists had three options to keep their cars clean: Shell out on regular car washes; slave away in the cold, wind and snow washing it yourself, or screw it and just drive a dirty car. I, like many, chose the last option. But if only I'd been able to test Nissan's self-cleaning car, all my troubles would have washed away.

  • Popular hot yoga myths debunked 20 hours ago
    Popular hot yoga myths debunked

    What’s the hottest new workout taking the world by storm? That would be hot yoga, also known as Bikram yoga. Conducted in a heated room with sweltering temperatures of about 40°C (or approximately 104° Fahrenheit) and 40 per cent humidity, … Continue reading →

  • Photo of a very thin Lee Kuan Yew sparks concern
    Photo of a very thin Lee Kuan Yew sparks concern

    A new picture of Singapore's first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who is now 90 years old, has drawn concern from people on Singapore's internet space.

  • Waste oil collector struggles after STOMP posts, receives help from kind souls
    Waste oil collector struggles after STOMP posts, receives help from kind souls

    After being photographed at work in Jurong pooling used oil near coffee shops, 50-year-old Valerie Sim has been struggling to keep her family afloat. Web portals STOMP and The Real Singapore published pictures of her in February, triggering a witch hunt for others like her and comments from readers like “Who knows if they’ll use it as cooking oil?” Some readers also said they filed police reports against her and other people they believed were doing the same thing she was.

  • I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind.
    I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind.

    I have committed a taboo – I have tendered my resignation without securing the next job. The reactions to the announcement were varied but they all pretty much hint at a deep sense of disapproval. “Why did you do that?” It was as if I had renounced my faith. “What are you going to do from now on?” Almost as though a misfortune had incapacitated me. “What does your family have to say about it?” As if I had offered to cook for the next family dinner. I was, and still am, certain of my reasons and motivations for the resignation. However the response I received got me thinking about why people are so concerned about the gaps in their careers. The developed world evolved from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy to the service age, then to the knowledge economy in the late 1990s and 2000s marked by breakthroughs in technological innovations and competition for innovation with new products and processes that develop from the research community. According to The Work Foundation, the knowledge economy is driven by the demand for higher value added goods and services created by more sophisticated, more discerning, and better educated consumers and ... The post I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind. appeared first on Vulcan Post.