The Malay Malaise, Role Models And…..Ismail Kassim




By: B Goode

Ismail Kassim, the former ST journalist who is known for his pro-Malaysia spins, is now talking smack about the reserved Presidency. This is the guy who waxes lyrical for Malaysia’s racist pro-Malay bumiputera policy and yet when it comes to Singapore, he is all for meritocracy. Dafug.

Let’s be blunt. Very, very blunt. Singapore Malays, despite all the progress made by and within the community in the last 50 years, still require a leg up; a little push here, a gentle nudge there and some deliberate help. They are not asking for a crutch but it would be inconsiderate to the point of irresponsible for the government to ignore the Malay malaise and to pretend that everything is hunky dory and that meritocracy will ultimately solve the problem.

The Malays still lag behind in education and household income. They have the highest divorce rate but with the highest reproductive rate; an anomaly not seen much anywhere in the world, and a combination that has resulted in single mothers having to care for a lot of children. It is a recipe for disaster; of them getting trapped in a poverty cycle.

And the perennial drug problem within the community doesn’t seem to abate. Every time the CNB did an island-wide operation, you’d see Malay enclaves of Marsiling, Woodlands and Bedok topping the list.

Once I asked in a Malaysian facebook news site an innocuous question: “Can anyone name me a Malay genius?” The replies from the commentators were disappointing at best and laughable at worst.

The majority named P Ramlee as one. Some named Mahathir, a few said Najib. There were a few celebrities thrown in as well. If you were to ask the same question to the Singapore Malays, the answer might vary of course but one constant would be the lack of any geniuses in the Malay world that would be on par with say Einstein, Tagore, Deng Xiaoping et al.

Of course, in looking for role models, being a genius might not be the sole criteria or should be a criteria at all. But they would be hard pressed to name at least one Malay whom either they would aspire to be or used as someone to inspire their children to be. No matter how great the government machine tried to portray him, no one would want to be Othman Wok.

The lack of role models is perhaps one of the reasons for the Malay malaise. Aspiring to be P Ramlee is like reaching for the top of the trees when other people are reaching for the stars.

There is no better indicator of the lack of very successful Malays than the Malay presidential candidates that are already put on offer. No doubt one is a very successful businessman and the other a successful financier. Halimah Yacob (Halimah Yacob for President!) is a very respectable politician cum social worker but people and the Malays especially are generally yearning for someone better. Someone who is literally nonexistent.

So back to Ismail Kassim. His resentment for the reserved Malay Presidency was because it would be an insult to the community and would undo all the progress that the Malays have achieved. I really have no idea what he was rambling about.

Yes. The Malays have indeed progressed but not as much as the other races. In this regard, relatively speaking, they have actually regressed vis-à-vis the other communities. And to argue that the Malay Presidency would undo all the progress was simplistic at best. Malay progress is not like a pair of bras where one clip will decide whether everything will flop out or not….

And what is wrong with giving the Malays the Presidency once every 50 years? Although compared to some individuals from other races the candidates thus far are not really that awesome, they are successful in their own right. It is not like they are former doctors who have spent the past 20 years or so doing nothing substantial but living on past glories and self-made belief.

If based on meritocracy alone, sad to say no Malays will ever be a President in the next 50 years. If based on unfettered election process, even if there was one, no Malays would ever be elected due to the fact that politically Singapore is still divided along racial lines. Not that we are racist but all things being equal, we will generally have a preference for someone of our own race, politically at least.

So to those who opposed the reserved Malay Presidency, I have this to say : After 50 years, we need a Malay President as a modicum of acceptance that they are an important part of the society and to acknowledge their contribution or at the minimum to acknowledge their very existence that gives the notion that Singapore is a multi-racial country.

After 50 years, Singapore need a Malay President. Period.

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