Let’s try to ‘rescue truth from beauty’….
Truth vs Beauty
The beauty of a symbolic minority-race Singapore President, albeit an elected one, is that those of the majority race can say with a straight face that the tyranny of the ethnic majority does not exist in Singapore.
But the truth is that the Malays, in particular, continue to be discriminated against in the military, the civil service and select cabinet portfolios – after half a century as an independent Singapore.
Likewise, and perhaps sadder still, the truth is that the Singapore female, at a 1.036 ratio higher than male, continues to be overwhelmingly under-represented in the top echelons of the cabinet, among MPs and the civil service – after half a century of universal education for all regardless of sex.
Do the above racial and gender (factual) situations not deserve the same ‘very necessary symbolism of what we are as a multiracial society’, Mr Prime Minister?
Symbolism With Substance
Symbolism taken to its progressive, logical end can only mean proportional representation across racial and gender lines and across all offices. That, however, is neither a realistic nor a wise approach given the self-evident differences in human beings, as much as the similarities we all share. Whilst proportionality ensures all categories of people have a seat at the table, society may not be prepared to pay the price of a slower and, probably, lower average rate of material progress.
PM himself admits ‘the head of state represents all Singaporeans‘ – more a figurehead than an elected office bearer – with nothing much needed to show for. Hence, would not the ‘very necessary symbolism’ that the PM so believes in be truly better served with symbolism in offices of true substance – where the office bearer or appointee gets the opportunity to show her/his leadership competence in the military, civil service and cabinet?
What’s more, what does it mean to claim, ‘yes, this is my country. Someone like me can become the head of state, can represent the country‘ when only the daft ones will not know that that Malay, Indian or Eurasian President is only there because it is her/his turn to occupy the Istana as a mere symbol of multi-racialism?
Symbolism vs Tokenism vs…Puppetism
To get a clearer understanding, we look up any reputable dictionary to understand what ‘symbolism’ and, its very close synonym, ‘tokenism’ mean.
sym·bol·ismn.1. The practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships.
n.1. The policy of making only a perfunctory effort or symbolic gesture toward the accomplishment of a goal, such as racial integration.
As can be seen, what PM Lee tries to sell to us is for the minority-race President to ‘attribute symbolic meanings or significance’ to our belief in multi-racialism. But, isn’t it clearer still that, since he is not interested whatsoever in addressing the as-very-necessary racial and gender symbolism in the military, civil service and cabinet, what Singaporeans, especially the aggrieved minorities are being shortchanged with ‘tokenism’ i.e. ‘making only perfunctory effort or symbolic gesture’ towards multi-racialism?
The analysis leads us inevitably to the truth behind the beauty of a tokenism devised and disguised as ‘a very necessary symbolism‘. One designed to advance the PAP imperative for puppetism in order to serve its party dominance in Singapore. in order that they, the natural aristocrats, can ‘decide what is right. Never mind what the people think‘. Never mind what the elected President thinks.
The ultimate survival of Singapore is secondary to that imperative of PAP dominance. Thus, expect a superficial, wayang-like parliamentary debate where PM Lee will ‘persuade you that it is something that we should do and which is good for Singapore’.
If he truly believes in the strength of his argument, he’d put the proposed amendments to a referendum. Tetapi Perdana Menteri tidak mempunyai bola, methinks.