Policies on minorities must not be just tokenism

While the proposal to ensure a minority president gets elected from time to time stems from good intentions, the potential consequences from the changes may be too damning for the successful minority candidate ("Need to ensure a minority president from time to time"; Monday).

Many observers have already commented that these proposed changes would go against the basic precepts of meritocracy.

But the successful minority candidate may also be subjected to unfair discrimination, as his appointment may be deemed to be almost akin to the policy of affirmative action in the United States.

In the recent by-election in Bukit Batok, Mr Murali Pillai managed to defeat Dr Chee Soon Juan, despite contesting in a ward which has predominantly Chinese residents.

The fact that Mr Murali was voted in suggests that residents in Singapore have now gone beyond using race as the main factor when selecting a candidate in elections.

Many minority residents I have spoken to have said that the proposed amendments are mere acts of tokenism, as there has been little action taken to ensure that we would have a prime minister of a minority race soon.

While many perceive the role of the president as fundamental, real representation, they feel, would be when a minority candidate gets the opportunity to be the chief executive of the nation.

Robin Chee Ming Feng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2016, with the headline 'Policies on minorities must not be just tokenism'. Print Edition | Subscribe