Singapore's High Commissioner to Malaysia slams editorial by newspaper Utusan Malaysia

SINGAPORE - Singapore's High Commissioner to Malaysia has hit back at an editorial by newspaper Utusan Malaysia on changes to Singapore's Elected Presidency, saying it made several "baseless and mischievous allegations".

These include the claims that in Singapore, "meritocracy was always being used as an excuse to discriminate against Malays", that "meritocracy was also open to manipulation", and that "Malays became weaker and marginalised from the corridors of power, Mr Vanu Gopala Menon wrote in a letter to the Malay-language daily.

The letter was published on Tuesday (May 30) on the High Commission of the Republic of Singapore in Kuala Lumpur's website.

The newspaper's editors, writing under the pseudonym Awang Selamat, had praised the move to reserve this year's presidential election for Malay candidates.

The editorial, published on Sunday (May 28), then noted that some parties including former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock, have opposed the move.

It went on to comment on meritocracy in Singapore.

Mr Menon wrote he wanted to "set the record straight".

He noted meritocracy is a key pillar of Singapore's system of governance, and Singaporeans have equal opportunities, regardless of race, language or religion.

Singapore's Malay community has made significant social and economic progress in the past five decades because of its efforts in a fair and just society, not because of privileges given, he said.

Malay students have also excelled and topped national examinations, he added.

"Singapore's meritocratic system has never been 'manipulated' or 'used as an excuse to discriminate' against Singapore's Malay community, or any other community. We strictly prohibit our people, including the media, from using the issues of race, language, and religion to divide our society," he said.

Mr Menon also said the editorial may have misunderstood the changes made to the Presidential Elections Act.

"First, the candidate in the reserved election must meet the same qualifying criteria as any other candidate who stands and wins in a non-reserved election," he noted.

"Second, as the Head of State, the President is the symbol of the country, and represents all Singaporeans, not just his ethnic group. These are important facts which "Awang" has conveniently omitted in his editorial."

Correction note: This story has been edited for clarity.