NB: I wrote this article way back in 2001, and the points made in the article were a reflection of my raison d’etre to Malaysian-Singapore relations of that time period. Since then, my ideological stance have changed and there are some remarks made here which I would not agree with today. Nevertheless, the gist of the article’s observations still remain true twelve years later (2012) and therefore the article is reposted here for readers to reflect upon.
Many Sino-Singaporeans who try to criticize the Malaysian formula due to their ignorance of the reality of Malaysian politics of race duly claim superiority with the implementation of their so-called “meritocracy” system. It is also claimed that by the enforcement of the Malay special rights as provided for in Article 153 of the Malaysian Constitution, Malaysia is actually making an “apartheid”-like policy. Other than the fact that the ideologies and policies of both countries are radically different, the truth is that while the so-called implementation of the “apartheid” policies have brought about socio-economic balances and harmony in Malaysia, Singapore’s so-called “meritocracy” system has caused much misery to those other than the Sino-Singaporean majority and the formulation of many draconian policies that formed the basis of the currently Sino-dominated Singaporean government.
While the Chinese of Malaysia recognize the need to work together with the other communities in Malaysia and believe in the concept of ‘power-sharing’ with the Malay-majority, the Sino-Singaporeans only thrive on Chinese chauvinism, as reflected in the “meritocracy” policy. Until today, the Malay community of Singapore are the most backward socio-economically compared to the other races of Singapore, even though they are the indigenous people of this rich Island.
Much of the marginalisation of the Malay community and the failure of the meritocracy system to improve the Malay situation are clearly highlighted in The Singapore Dilemma (Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur), a book that has sparked off much controversy in Singapore. This book, written by Lily Zubaidah Rahim — a lecturer with the Department of Economic History, University of Sydney, Australia — continues to be extensively quoted as it contains the real facts and figures as to the effects of the meritocracy system of Singapore on the Malays of Singapore.Apart from discussing why the policy of “meritocracy” is not truly a fair and just system, she also argues on how the PAP government uses the cultural deficit thesis to justify the marginalisation of the Malays in Singapore.
Malay Singaporeans have not been totally silent over the discrimination they suffer at the hands of the Sino-dominated Singaporean government. A Singaporean Malay had complained in a Malaysian daily regarding his son’s failure to secure a place in the National University of Singapore (NUS). Even though his son achieved better results than the majority Chinese in his class, the Sino-Singaporeans lower than his son’s results were still admitted into the NUS. This is due to the quota system imposed by the University onto the Malays, which is only 15%, the Indians 9%, other races 4% and 65% for the Chinese Singaporeans, who make up the majority of the country.
This, and other limitations imposed by the Sino-Singaporean government, clearly reflects ‘the hidden hypocrisy’ of the system known as “meritocracy”. The policy is thus simply a cover-up to the reality of the Sino dominance, although the entry immigrants, in the socio-political sphere of Singapore. It is not impossible that Singapore could one day fall into racial strife, just as what had happened to Fiji, where the majority and economically-isolated indigenous natives revolted against the minority but powerful and economically-strong Indo-Fijian government.
No doubt that the “meritocracy” of Singapore should instead be termed as “hypocrisy” as its policies had only benefited the majority and powerful ethnic Sino-Singaporeans, more than the other ethnic races of Singapore who are left behind due to this unfortunate “advantage” given to the majority. Pushing Malaysia towards the Singapore-styled “meritocracy” policy would no doubt lead to the Malays of Malaysia being seriously marginalized as their counterparts in Singapore are currently experiencing. It is therefore totally rational to maintain the special rights as has been enshrined into the Constitution to maintain peace and stability in the country. And as a reader of Utusan Melayu commenting on the issue rightly asks:
“Are the Malays in the country still lulled in their dream world?”