Malay/Muslim community 'can do more in partnership with PAP'

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim speaking to a Jalan Besar resident during a walkabout on Sept 6.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim speaking to a Jalan Besar resident during a walkabout on Sept 6. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

The Malay/Muslim community has much to be proud of, and its strong partnership with the Government has paved the way for these achievements, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim last night.

The People's Action Party (PAP) Government, in turn, has weathered crises like the Sars epidemic and the threat of terrorist network Jemaah Islamiah - thanks to the support of the people, said Dr Yaacob at a party rally in Boon Keng.

The Malay/Muslim community's achievements did not come easy and challenges still lie ahead. But, said Dr Yaacob in Malay: "The PAP has a credible and efficient team to further the interests of the Malays and the future of Singapore."

This includes a slate of new, dedicated Malay MPs. Four new Malay candidates are being fielded by the party in the Sept 11 polls. The report card on the community's achievements should not be forgotten, added Dr Yaacob, who leads the PAP slate in Jalan Besar GRC.

"Good news about progress is not as exciting as sensational comments, wild accusations or mischievous untruths," he said. "This hard work to serve the people is not as glamorous, but this is the principle the PAP Malay MPs and I follow, no matter the challenges we face."

Opposition parties have claimed on the hustings that the interests of the Malay/Muslim community have not been looked after.

One issue raised is that of Muslim women not being allowed to wear headscarves in certain jobs such as those in the uniformed services.

Yesterday, speaking to reporters after a morning visit to the Beo Crescent market, Dr Yaacob said the PAP's Malay MPs, including himself, are sympathetic to those facing such restrictions. They 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," said Dr Yaacob, adding he is confident change "will come in time".

At the rally, he acknowledged that the Malay/Muslim community still faces challenges. "There are issues that need more time. Those who try to sell a quick fix - bohong!" he said, using the Malay word for "lying".

While the community's progress is testament that it is moving in the right direction, Dr Yaacob added that his team's efforts are always a work in progress. "We will continue our fight, even if we are sometimes misunderstood and ridiculed. We will not give up."

Meanwhile, at a PAP rally in Simei, Minister of State for Defence and National Development Maliki Osman, a member of the East Coast GRC team, stressed that deployments in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) are based on meritocracy and commitment to the country, regardless of race and religion.

Singapore Democratic Party candidate Damanhuri Abas had said the SAF prevented Malay men from serving in sensitive combat positions.

But Dr Maliki said: "Our Malay servicemen have been recognised year after year, quietly and based on their competency." He acknowledged former MP Abbas Abu Amin, one of the first Malay officers in the SAF, on stage and added that today, there are Malay SAF officers in various vocations, including commandos, armour officers, pilots and naval combat systems operators.

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, co-anchor of the PAP team in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, pointed out at a rally in Woodlands that Muslims could worship in more than 60 mosques. The community practises its religion openly, and the Government has extended support through initiatives like the Mosque Building Fund, which collects contributions from Muslim workers.

Relating the struggles a Buddhist temple in Bukit Batok East, where she was MP, faced in raising funds, Madam Halimah said: "This is something other religions do not enjoy."

• Additional reporting by Toh Yong Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2015, with the headline 'Malay/Muslim community 'can do more in partnership with PAP''. Print Edition | Subscribe