parliament

Parliament: Committee to study concerns of Malays 'not necessary'

Community has progressed, negative views continually addressed: Yaacob

Thousands of Malays have succeeded under Singapore's meritocratic system even though there are still perceptions to the contrary, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday.

The community, he added, has moved forward and improved in all areas, and negative views on the ground have been continually addressed on several platforms.

It was thus not necessary for a committee to be formed to deal with these concerns, he said on the sidelines of an endowment disbursement ceremony.

"We want to deal with it behind the scenes, do it on the quiet, work with various agencies, work with various individuals who may have been affected... so we can understand that better," he said.

The formation of a committee to look into perceived job discrimination and other concerns had been raised in Parliament by Mr Faisal Manap (Aljunied GRC) of the Workers' Party (WP) on Monday. The topic was brought up again by both People's Action Party and WP legislators in the House on Wednesday and yesterday.

Much of the debate has centred on the findings of the Suara Musyawarah report released last year based on the feedback of the Malay-Muslim community.

The report highlighted misgivings from some in the community on perceived discrimination and over whether their loyalty to the nation was in doubt.

Yesterday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen echoed Dr Yaacob's stance that the progress of the Malays has been based on merit.

He added that they had made "significant strides in skills and educational attainment".

"Deployments of soldiers into vocations and their promotions are based on merit, capability and attitude, as well as their commitment to the Singapore Armed Forces in Singapore," he said.

There are now Malays in all areas - pilots in the Air Force, commandos, combat engineers and artillery men in the Army and the Navy, as well as in the ranks of senior commanders.

These deployments have been taking place "progressively, without fanfare", based simply on aptitude and merit, he stressed. "To take any actions based on race, even if it is an affirmative action, puts us onto the path of tokenism.

"None of us in this House want this, or have called for it, nor do all my Malay soldiers and commanders who have earned their positions on sheer merit alone."

maryamm@sph.com.sg