'It's time to trust Malays more'

The latest SDP candidates to be introduced are Mr Bryan Lim and Mr Damanhuri Abas. The party remains tight-lipped on where its candidates will stand.
The latest SDP candidates to be introduced are Mr Bryan Lim and Mr Damanhuri Abas. The party remains tight-lipped on where its candidates will stand. PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Education consultant Damanhuri Abas said it was time the Government accorded more trust towards Malays, and he is prepared to fight for it if elected to Parliament.

His impassioned response came when he was asked to share what he felt were key issues affecting the Malay/Muslim community here.

Speaking to the media yesterday after he was introduced as a Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate for the coming polls, Mr Damanhuri related an incident involving his six-year-old son.

They were watching this year's National Day Parade on television when the boy saw the mobile column featuring a tank convoy.

"My son said, 'Father, when I grow up, I want to be a tank commander'," said the 45-year-old father of five. "You know how I felt when he said that? Malays cannot become tank commanders."

His stand was based on his own belief that the SAF adopts a cautious approach when placing Malay servicemen in certain vocations.

The issue, however, has been addressed before, most recently during the National Day Rally when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his Malay speech lauded the achievements of two Malay pilots.

Mr Damanhuri, who was until last month the director of Muhammadiyah Islamic College, said he learnt over more than 20 years of working with Malay/Muslim organisations that the community feels discriminated against.

Aside from his belief that the SAF denies Malay men from serving in sensitive combat positions, the electoral first-timer also raised the tudung issue, saying he hopes Muslim women in some jobs will be allowed to wear the headscarf freely one day.

Also introduced as a candidate was Mr Bryan Lim Boon Heng, a 38- year-old manager at a hospital. Although the SDP did not reveal where he would contest at the polls, The Straits Times understands that he will likely contest Bukit Batok SMC.

Besides the single-seat ward, SDP chief Chee Soon Juan said his candidates will contest Holland-Bukit Timah and Marsiling-Yew Tee GRCs, as well as Bukit Panjang and Yuhua SMCs. The party has introduced eight out of its slate of 11 candidates that it plans to field at the polls so far. The remaining three, likely to include Dr Chee, are expected to be unveiled later today.

Mr Lim, who is a central executive committee member, was last fielded at the 2001 polls as part of the five-man team which garnered 20.3 per cent of the votes in the now-defunct Hong Kah GRC.

Mr Lim said that as a father of a four-year-old daughter, he plans to campaign on issues close to his heart such as population, housing and education. He also touted the party's town council management plan, saying: "The SDP has a very sound town council plan, which we urge the electorate to read on our website. We are not going to make any empty promises. We want them to hold us accountable."

Meanwhile, Mr Damanhuri, whose children are aged between six and 17, said he welcomed some of the new initiatives announced at the recent National Day Rally, one of which was the plan to help Islamic religious schools strengthen the teaching of secular subjects such as mathematics and science.

He was also happy that not only will the Baby Bonus cash incentives become bigger, but also those with bigger families will get it for all babies and not just the first four. "Now with the Government's announcement, my wife said jokingly that maybe we should consider (having a sixth child)."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2015, with the headline ''It's time to trust Malays more''. Print Edition | Subscribe