Lives of S'pore's Malays 'have improved tremendously'

MINISTER-IN-CHARGE of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday brushed aside comments by former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who claimed that Singapore's Malays are marginalised.

Their quality of life and the standard of living today have "improved tremendously" compared with 50 years ago, noted Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for Communications and Information.

"Malays are now home owners, we have a better-educated population and wealth has been increasing in the Malay/Muslim community," he told reporters at a Mendaki event.

"So, by and large, I think the state of affairs of the community here is quite good," he said.

Tun Dr Mahathir said in a video released on Sunday that if Prime Minister Najib Razak stayed in power, the Malays in Malaysia could become marginalised like their Singapore counterparts.

His claim, an old assertion he resurrected in his campaign to unseat Mr Najib, drew an almost immediate rebuttal from Malaysia's former law minister Zaid Ibrahim.

He said he would be happy if the Malays in Malaysia became like Singaporean Malays, adding that "Singaporean Malays reap the benefits of the modern advanced economy that is Singapore and are encouraged by political leaders to develop themselves".

Yesterday, Dr Yaacob noted that the remarks were Mr Zaid's "own analysis".

He added that what is most important for him and his community is to be thankful for what they have in Singapore now compared with 50 years ago.

It still faces challenges but the key is in moving forward as a community and as "a member of the Singaporean family", he said.

"We preserve what we have, we maintain the standards that we have lived by - meritocracy, corruption-free and so on - to ensure that the succeeding generation can also enjoy a higher quality of life for themselves and their children," Dr Yaacob said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2015, with the headline 'Lives of S'pore's Malays 'have improved tremendously''. Print Edition | Subscribe