The Fall of Meritocracy in Singapore

First of all, very nice off-center shot of the new President of Singapore. Look at the composition of the shot. The photographer must be a really goo… Ok, let’s get on with matters.

Halimah Yacob is probably the most searched politician in Singapore this last few days with her becoming the first female Singapore President ever and second Malay President since Yusof Ishak. Ok, I know many would take issue with referring to her as Malay since people are saying she is actually half-Indian. To me, being half-Indian doesn’t make her less Malay. Alright, it makes her half-Malay, but the fact is, she still is part Malay. So, I’m actually not too bothered by the technicality but I’m not sure if the government realizes they’ve gone down a slippery slope by enforcing a Malay-only election.

What happened to meritocracy?

When you begin to do things like that, it becomes only fair to have one of such elections for each race for there to be equality. It will be tricky to suddenly decide to abolish this rule without granting other races their share of the situation. So when will there be an Indian-only election, Eurasian-only election, and Chinese-only election? If the old Lee was watching, I bet he must be flipping in his coffin trying to slap a large trout across the face of whoever came up with the idea.

The concept of meritocracy was lost as soon as the new rule was implemented. There is no equality to this nor any form of meritocracy. Restricting the Presidential election to one particular race because there hasn’t been any representation of Malays in the office for a very long time is like saying Malays won’t be able to win the election through meritocracy alone, which is a very big insult. We are not in school and this isn’t Halloween where the teacher has to make sure every kid gets their share of the candy. To do this is the same as saying, since there are too few Chinese players in the Singapore Lions team, next player draft should be restricted to Chinese-only.

Think about it: Why are there so many Malay players in the national soccer team? The reason is simple, i.e. because they are good at it. They got selected by virtue of their skills; by merit. Nobody is complaining about it because we know that among the players playing soccer as a profession, these Malay players have proven to be outstanding. We have never thought of the Singapore Lions as a team of Malays; the Singapore Lions is a team of Singaporeans. Why can’t that happen for the Presidential Election? If you hope for a Malay President, encourage Malays to apply for it, not make it such that only they can play.

With all the conspiracy theories going on and a February Parliament video showing Minister Chan Chun Sing addressing the then-Speaker-of-Parliament as “Madam President” circulating on YouTube, things are just getting worse. What has happened to our government? Can we not run properly without LKY?

Perhaps a jab at the situation on Facebook by a fellow Singaporean sums it up the best:

It is clear that people are upset about the whole incident that could easily have been avoided had the “new rule” not been implemented.

I guess the only consolation coming out of this is that, Singaporeans are likely clear-minded enough to not demand an Indian-only, Eurasian-only, or Chinese-only election, so do away with the new rule, tahan a few more jokes and jabs from us and move on.

I believe we see ourselves first as Singaporeans than as our races. The government has to be grateful for that and stop creating incidences as such that tell people we are different.

We are not different.

We are Singaporeans.


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