Time to mix up the “mixed-up” racial proportion in Singapore’s Army, Civil Defence, and Police Force.

“..there is a big change of policy since the early days. You actually do find now quite a lot of Malays (and Muslims) in the SAF occupying relatively what would have been defined as sensitive positions..The concern however is that there is still a much higher proportion of young Malays in the Police (and the Singapore Civil Defence Force – SCDF) than in the Army.” 

“I think in the next 10-15 years..we may well see more racial riots in Singapore than we see infringements against our national sovereignty.”

“..today.. the greatest dilemmas of social security..deal with internal security. So then where is the validity of thinking that a Malay may be put in a dilemma defending Singapore against Malaysia? What about that same Malay police officer being told that he has to now go arrest another young Malay who might be a potential ISIS person? So you can no longer say that a Malay person put into the SAF is more sensitive than being put into the Police.”

“I honestly don’t think the government (today) believe that Malays are not to be trusted. I think it is just somehow that legacy policy is still there and they can do more..”

“..we should really mix it up, make the national service in the so-called home team as high a priority, and as important as being in the SAF..our society depends as much on our young police officers as much as they do on our military officers.”

 “We need to raise the prestige of the Police force, mix it up a lot more, but I would not agree to the stereotype that we are institutionally racist and suspicious of the young Malays. I believe government has moved beyond that, but it is not reflecting enough in actions.”

– Ho Wong Ping

 “I personally don’t think it’s racist or discriminatory. The motivation is not that. it’s really a security concern which has not been sufficiently, adequately sort of modified over time.

– Viswa Sadasivan

*Below is the Transcript of the video between 1:07:18 – 1:17:05

Ai Ling: “I would actually like to hear (from) the panelists..What they think about the Singapore’s government policy of..excluding Muslims from key positions in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)?..Because in my view, I think it’s..inherently contradictory when you start off with a natural positon of distrust, and then at the same time, you worry about them..falling prey to things like Islamic extremism..”

Ho Wong Ping: “..I think that clearly there is a big change of policy since the early days. You actually do find now quite a lot of Malays (and Muslims) in the SAF occupying relatively what would have been defined as sensitive positions. I think we’ve move a long way from there. The concern however is that there is still a much higher proportion of young Malays in the Police (and the Singapore Civil Defence Force – SCDF) than in the Army.

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Photo credit: Market Interactive (Ho Wong Ping)

And I know this because my youngest son when into the Police, and my eldest son and myself went into the Army. It can have a very debilitating effect on young Malays..I actually met some of the young Malays who were friends with my younger son who went into the Police. They were straight-A students in Junior Colleges (JCs), and they never encountered what they thought were institutional racism.

And then suddenly they found themselves in the Police. And they would ask questions to the police commanders, and the police commanders would say actually there is no such policies excreta. But some of them would tell me that it was the first them they felt really depressed, that there is clearly a much higher proportion..of Malays in the Police (as compared to the national multi-racial profile).

..My point here is even if you believe pure, purely rational behaviour, and therefore you think its not wise to put a Malay in a position where he might be..in a dilemma. That was LKY’s view. The problem today now is that many of the greatest dilemmas of social security don’t deal with national defence anyone. They deal with internal security.

So then where is the validity of thinking that a Malay may be put in a dilemma defending Singapore against Malaysia? What about that same Malay police officer being told that he has to now go arrest another young Malay who might be a potential ISIS person? So you can no longer say that a Malay person put into the SAF is more sensitive than being put into the Police.  

I think in the next 10-15 years, the greatest areas in fact of insecurity, instability in Singapore will not be external. We have a very strong SAF. But look at what happen with the police riots..we may well see more racial riots in Singapore than we see infringements against our national sovereignty. So I think we need to relook the whole issue…I honestly don’t think the government (today) believe that Malays are not to be trusted. I think it is just somehow that legacy policy is still there and they can do more..”

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Photo credit: SIMC (Viswa Sadasivan)

Viswa Sadasivan:”…But the delay in the categoric shift is going to result in..a higher level of disillusionment because..the younger persons’ expectation (as you said, your son’s generation) are much higher.”

Ho Wong Ping: “Their little policy that I wasn’t aware of, and perhaps some of our national leaders are not aware of..for example, if you are an SAF Officer Cadet (OCT) and you didn’t do too well, you can actually transfer down to the Police force and become a Police officer. If you are one of the best performing recruits in the Police, you can never go and join to become an officer in the SAF. So it immediately makes the SAF a higher priority..

..My own sense is we should really mix it up, make the national service in the so-called home team as high a priority, and as important as being in the SAF. Because clearly, when my son was in the Police force, and he went out to actually deal with operational issues. Frankly I think our society depends as much on our young police officers as much as they do on our military officers.

So we need to raise the prestige of the Police force, mix it up a lot more, but I would not agree to the stereotype that we are institutionally racist and suspicious of the young Malays. I believe government has moved beyond that, but it is not reflecting enough in actions.

Viswa Sadasivan: “..But the optics have not moved. I personally don’t think it’s racist or discriminatory. The motivation is not that. it’s really a security concern which has not been sufficiently, adequately sort of modified over time.

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Photo credit: HASS (Nazry Bahrawi)

Dr Nazry Bahrawi: This is the how we can divide between what is racialist and what is racist. You don’t see this as racist thing, because its natural that Malays are closer to the Nusantara and so, (they) might feel sympathy. Cause it’s just natural, it’s just a thing to do. And this is where we need to talk about the CMIO model, the adverse effect of the CMIO model. Of course I don’t agree with this ideas that Malays cannot occupy certain positions in the SAF.

I don’t know fully well the numbers but just incidentally coming along the way here, I spoke to an (malay) Uber driver who used to be in the SAF and he quit precisely for this reason – because he thinks he cannot get the job that he wants and..He saw a glass ceiling. He said out of a thousand commandos, you have two, and those two..get all the focus and the media, and you think that yah, there are Malay commandos but you know, there could be more.”

 Viswa Sadasivan: “Khairil, you want to talk about this, your view.”

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Photo credit: FB Page (Khairil Sianipar)

Khairil Sianipar: “I mean, I’m done with this CMIO thing to be honest. I’ve been very blessed to be representing the country to international platforms..Anyways, I think one of the panel mentioned just now its how we think that matters. Government can do whatever they want, but we have our own minds, and I think we need to empower ourselves and stop blaming other people.

Come on, if you want to be close to someone else, a different race, just do it. Stop putting racial lines – oh I’m Malay, you’re Indian, you’re Chinese. Forget it. I met a friend from Suriname..It’s a place in Latin America. And we all talk about New York being ..something inspirational and so on for Singapore but I think Suriname is a place where we should look towards. Because in Suriname, we have people from the Java islands, the Chinese, Indians, the Black community, the White community, and they all just say that we are Surinameans.

They have Dim Sum Sundays, they have Roti Saturdays. They will flock the cafes and eat Indian Roti. Everyone..So I think, lets look towards that, and stop fooling ourselves and just say that it’s how it is. CMIO, CMIO. Come on, forget it.”

Viswa Sadasivan: “I honestly love this strategy. And looking at many of the facial expressions, you hit the nail of the head. Let’s stop complaining about these things and frankly, because..whether the government changes it policies anot, there’s nothing stopping us from interacting..from calling our neighbour over..from having our son or daughter marry a person of a different race..from being truly multi-racial or multi-cultural.

And I think, we should stop..taking references form the government, cause that just continues to make them feel they are the center reference point. We can shift the reference point to us. And social media is there for us to start doing this. What is stopping young people like you to start a movement about being Singaporeans, our culture as opposed to race – CMIO? And..frankly, I don’t think the government is going to come down hard on that. I think the goal posts are shifting..”

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Photo credit: SPH Photo

“Government can do whatever they want, but we have our own minds, and I think we need to empower ourselves and stop blaming other people..if you want to be close to someone else, a different race, just do it. Stop putting racial lines..”

Khairil Sianipar

“..whether the government changes it policies anot.. There’s nothing stopping us from being truly multi-racial or multi-cultural.”

Viswa Sadasivan

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*Offbeat Perspective’s Side notes* Didn’t anyone smell a rat when Inconvenient Question started in late January 2015 (*some months just before the 2015 General Election period) and decided to shut down in June 2016 (*some months after General Election ended)? 😉 It’s a very much “government-friendly” version (*wink wink) of the usual anti-establishment alternative sites, but it did show both sides of the coins, and carried out interviews with individuals who are perceived as non-PAP friendly, and raise informative and relevant discussion on important socio-political issues in Singapore nonetheless 🙂

The then-Defence Minister Teo’s response to the issue of self-radicalised individuals (2010):

Screenshot 2016-10-20 14.31.03.png

Screenshot 2016-10-20 14.31.37.png

Government responses towards public perception of the under-representation of Malay/Muslims in the MINDEF:

High-ranking Malay military men who had been asked by their community to be profiled for their achievements have turned down the requests as they are loathe to draw attention to their race..This is because they have been promoted through their accomplishments and capabilities..

“The SAF has been..quietly and progressively without fanfare, applying the principles of merit and aptitude, which means that every Malay soldier who is posted to any vocation or unit, got there on his own merit..To take any action based on race, even if it is an affirmative action, puts us onto the path of tokenism..” (Dr Ng Eng Hen, Defence Minister Since 2011)

–  (AsiaOne, 30 May 2014)

(Dr Ng) reiterated that Malays now serve in the army, navy and air force, adding that with Singapore’s small population, the SAF does not discriminate against anyone and promotes its servicemen based on their ability.

“We want to get the maximum out of each person in the SAF… we are putting the best people in the best positions.” But for sensitive positions in the military, the SAF is not blind to the fact that “people can be blackmailed..We ask ourselves: “can we trust this person in that position to make sure he will not be made use of, that he will not be vulnerable?”

– (AsiaOne, 17 Feb 2015)

 Dr Maliki – the first Malay political office-holder in the Defence Ministry – said the Malay community continues to make positive contributions to Singapore, including in the area of defence and security.

 “I have met many Malay servicemen in every service and formation in the SAF, including as fighter pilots, commandos, and naval combat systems operators..Whether they are regulars, NSFs or NSmen, all of them serve with pride..Together with their non-Malay colleagues, they play an important role in keeping our sea and shore safe, round the clock.”

– (AsiaOne, 20 Feb 2015)

MINDEF/SAF takes such allegations (on discriminatory practices) seriously as it impacts public trust and undermines the strong public support for National Service (NS) and the SAF. MINDEF/SAF does not tolerate any discriminatory behaviour and is investigating to determine the facts of the case. We take a serious view of the conduct of our servicemen. If any service personnel is found to have breached our Code of Conduct, disciplinary proceedings will be convened and the necessary actions will be taken.

– (MINDEF, 18 Aug 2015)

The official written reply given in parliament in 2011 on this issue was that in the last three years then, an average of 20 male madrasah graduates from each graduating madrasah cohort have served NS — which is a rather curious way to craft a response if one were to think about it.  

(Mothership.sg, 31 Mar 2016)

Dr Maliki said the SAF / Singapore’s approach has been – as far as practicable – to accommodate the needs of different devotees, while maintaining a common space and goals for all..He acknowledged that the situation had changed in recent years, but said there were concerns from the ground that there were still questions over the loyalty of the Malays to the nation.

– (ST, 8 Apr 2016)

Non-governmental / Opposition’s responses towards the issue:

The call for a truly inclusive and open SAF made by Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap during last week’s MINDEF COS review is not something new. Faisal has been calling for it consistently over the past few years.

– (FB, 12 Apr 2016) 

Some felt Malays were deliberately left out of certain “elite or sensitive” parts of the SAF such as the commandos, armour and air defence. They were also excluded from naval ships.

While such sentiments are not new, Mr Alwi, who is an engineer by training, pointed out that two or more decades ago, some members of the community may have felt a sense of loyalty to the Malay archipelago.”But now there is a strong sense of nationhood, of belonging to Singapore, especially among the younger generation. The key thing is we feel that our loyalty is being questioned and that we cannot be completely trusted.” he said.

Several who took part in focus group discussions cited personal anecdotes of being denied “sensitive” postings as full-time national servicemen or SAF regulars. Participants also said they were not satisfied with one or two “poster boys” who show that Malays can thrive in the SAF.

The committee acknowledged that these are anecdotes and reflect the feeling within the community. “We don’t have statistics,” said Mr Sallim. “But if the Government believes that these are just perceptions and not true, it must act to dispel them.”

–  (Suara Musyawarah Report 2013, 20 Aug 2013)

There still exist, in the larger community, the misconception that Malays do not hold Key Appointments in the Military. And Malays are passed over when it comes to Promotion and consideration for sensitive appointments. In many cases, all these hearsay is from baseless tongue wagging unverified claims..I am Malay and I am doing what most people in my community think, is a job that Malays will never sit in. 

At the same time, my fellow Malay friends and seniors are sitting in Key positions of Command as well in offices in the Ministry of Defence, doing again, what most people in my community think, Malays will never do.

– (Rilek1Corner, 26 Jun 2014)

..Opportunities don’t come, just because the organisation thinks there is a political impetus to. Opportunities come because, we in our own capacity and hard work, creates it. I may not be a high-flyer but I believe that I am still able to fly the flag high for the Malay/Muslim community. But we cannot do this if we continue disbelieving that change is already taking place.

..step forward and do your very best. Believe that you will be someone and trust that you will be given what you deserve..Shut out all those who don’t believe.. because if I had listened to all these people 14 years ago, I would have never reached this milestone in my life. Believe in yourself, continue learning and upgrading and serve the country and community because, if you don’t, no one else will. 

:: Be the change you wish to see in this world ::

– (Rilek1corner, 27 Jun 2014)

Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC)..also asked (Worker’s Party –  Mr Singh) if he was aware that many Malays are today deployed in various parts of the armed forces, including in artillery and signal units. To this, Mr Singh cited his personal experience of serving as platoon commander of a combat engineering unit during national service, where he observed that there were no Malay servicemen in the rank and file.

– (AsiaOne, 31 May 2014)

Thank you for reading Offbeat Perspective’s article:)

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Photo credit for titled image: Singapore’s SCDF / Police / MINDEF

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