SINGAPORE - Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim has urged Malay voters to think wisely and consider the progress the community had made in partnership with the People's Action Party (PAP) government when they cast their votes on Friday (Sept 11).
"By and large, the Malay community has something good going for them here," Dr Yaacob said on Wednesday (Sept 9). "I hope they will think wisely and vote wisely (for) their future."
The improvements in 50 years have been "tremendous" in such areas as education and religious life, and Dr Yaacob said he foresees his community continuing to benefit from the PAP Government's programmes.
Speaking to reporters after a morning visit to the Beo Crescent market to woo voters, he also addressed the issue of Muslim women not being allowed to wear headscarves in certain jobs. One such case is nurses in government hospitals.
He said the PAP's Malay MPs, including himself, are sympathetic to those facing such restrictions and have raised the matter with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
"PM Lee has said the policy is not cast in stone. To me, that is a very good sign," added Dr Yaacob, who is Minister for Communications and Information.
The issue has been raised on the hustings by some opposition parties who have charged the interests of the Malay-Muslim community have not been sufficiently looked after.
Dr Yaacob noted that generally, there are no restrictions on Muslim women wearing headscarves in the wider community.
But at workplaces with restrictions, he pledged to continue to work with employers to accommodate headscarves "in a flexible way".
He is confident the change "will come in time".
He also noted that like others, the Malay community is not problem-free.
"But the important thing is whether we are dealing with them."
He appealed to Malay voters to be patient as it takes time to solve the problems. "We don't have a magic wand. The opposition believe they can solve all the problems in five years. I will be very surprised (if they do)," he added.
Looking ahead, he sees government programmes like Fresh Start Housing Scheme improving further his community's quality of life.
The scheme to help second-timer rental households own a two-room flat was announed by PM Lee at the National Day Rally last month.
Noting it will benefit many Malay families, Dr Yaacob said: "Whenever I come across Malay families, I ask them and they tell me they want to get out of rental housing... and have a permanent home."