SINGAPORE - The Indian community here should not expect to have a representative in Parliament for every "Indian race", said Law Minister K. Shanmugam during a dialogue with the Sikh community on Wednesday, adding that the People's Action Party's (PAP) election candidates are chosen to represent all Singaporeans.
He was responding to a question from the floor on why the PAP did not field a Sikh candidate in this year's elections. Opposition parties' slates include a number of Sikhs, for instance Workers' Party's Pritam Singh, SingFirst's Sukdeu Singh and the Singapore Democratic Alliance's Harminder Pal Singh. Former PAP MP Inderjit Singh had also announced his retirement from politics in July, after serving four terms.
Replied Mr Shanmugam, who is also Minister for Foreign Affairs: "Over a period of time, we have had a number of Malayalis, such as Hri Kumar, Vikram Nair... so do we then need to maintain a quota of at least three Malayalis in Parliament?"
Mr Vikram Nair was first elected into Parliament in 2011 and is currently defending his seat at Sembawang GRC, while Mr Hri Kumar Nair served as an MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC for two terms before stepping down last month. Both are lawyers.
"If we start getting into the different Indian races, Tamils, Malayalis and so on, we would have endless problems," Mr Shanmugam, who is leading a PAP team in the Nee Soon GRC in the elections, went on.
He also urged the Sikh community to suggest possible candidates.
"You give us names. If there are people who can make it through the system, we will take them. But they will go through the same process that everybody else goes through. They will not be selected because they are Sikhs. They will be selected because they can represent all Singaporeans."
The two-hour dialogue, which was organised by the Young Sikh Association, was held at the Central Sikh Temple and attended by about 100 members of the community.
Mr Shanmugam was also asked if Singapore was ready for a non-Chinese prime minister. He replied that while it is possible, what was more important was for the candidate to have the ability needed for the position.
"If you were the ask the Cabinet today, philosophically, would there be any objection to a non-Chinese becoming the prime minister, I think the answer would be no. There is no philosophical objection, starting with the Prime Minister himself."
The candidate however cannot just appeal to just one particular group.
He said: "If politically you cannot appeal to the majority community, the party will be in trouble."