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geraldgiam.sg

Alternative proposals for a better Singapore

Malays deserve equal opportunities in the SAF

I was glad to learn that Colonel Ishak bin Ismail will be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General come 1st July. As Commander of the 6th Division since last August — division commanders in Singapore are usually BGs — his promotion was unsurprising.

What makes his achievement so significant is the fact that he became a BG despite having two “strikes” against him: He is Malay in the Singapore army, and he is not a government scholar. Although I have never served under him, I am confident that the SAF would not place a man in command of one of our three Combined Arms Divisions just for the sake of political tokenism.

Nevertheless, Singaporeans should not be lulled into thinking that full meritocracy has arrived in the SAF. There are still many “sensitive” units that have recently naturalised citizens but not a single Malay in their ranks.

I have long maintained that the SAF’s policy of not allowing Malays to serve in sensitive units is not just unnecessary, but it goes against our entire country’s boast of meritocracy as a national philosophy. It is based on the generalising assumption that all Malays are ideologues who see the world only in terms of “my race vs the rest”.

During a forum with students back in 1999, then-SM Lee Kuan Yew said that “If you put in a Malay officer who’s very religious and who has family ties in Malaysia in charge of a machine-gun unit, that’s a very tricky business.”

I don’t think anyone is expecting the SAF to put anyone who has close family ties in a foreign state in charge of a front-line combat unit. But is this a reason to keep all Malays out of all sensitive units?

Given today’s high-tech warfare, it is unlikely that soldiers in the offensive combat units — air force, navy, armour and artillery — will see their enemies’ faces or know which race they belong to before blasting them to smithereens. So the dilemma about “I-won’t-pull-the-trigger-because-my-enemy-is-Malay” should not factor in. If anything, it is in the infantry where face-to-face combat will take place, and ironically, that is where a larger proportion of Malay soldiers are deployed.

By perpetuating the widely-held view in neighbouring countries that Singapore is a Chinese-dominated country, the SAF is making itself (and Singapore) an even easier target for potential adversaries use racial politics to stir up negative sentiments among their populace against Singapore. Already, neighbouring country politicians frequently take gratuitous pot-shots at Singapore because of the SAF’s policies on Malays.

The SAF and the Government would do well to uphold — to the last letter — their claim to meritocracy. Instead of excluding qualified Malays simply on the basis of their race from sensitive units, thorough background checks should be done before deploying soldiers in sensitive units.

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56 Comments to “Malays deserve equal opportunities in the SAF”

  1. Dr. Huang Says:

    Hi Gerald,
    I agree totally.
    In fact I have sent a letter to the forum editor about this subject yesterday.
    Let’s hope it gets published.
    If so or if it is rejected, I will then post it on my blog.
    ( I am bound by ST forum’s regulation about submitting only unpublished letters)
    Cheers

  2. Zaki Says:

    Bro, thanks for believing in us.

    I’m proud to say that I serve with comrades of all races close to 2 decades. Still serving. We expect nothing less of each other than to commit ourselves to protect the country, our family and friends.

    I have to admit like it or not, we cannot defend the country 1/3 heartedly.

  3. Fox Says:

    I’m not sure if anyone remembers but in 1986, the president of Israel Chaim Herzog visited Singapore. Protests erupted in Malaysia with politicians threatening to demolish the Causeway and to turn Johor into a military zone. While most Singaporeans rallied to Singapore’s defence, writing to the Straits Times in support of Singapore’s right to host Chaim Herzog, a certain ethnic community maintained a sullen silence.

  4. Dr Huang Says:

    Hi Fox,
    That was 1986. 23 years ago! People change. Don’t you think our Malay compatriots are different from those up north? Please give them a break!

  5. Fox Says:

    Hi Dr. Huang,

    Are you suggesting that in 1986, you would have supported the policy to keep Malays out of sensitive units?

    ————————————————————-

    By the way, during NS, I was in a ‘sensitive’ unit which had no Malays. One of My bunk-mates was a Chinese Malaysian PR. *rolleyes*.

  6. Dr Huang Says:

    Hi Fox,
    You were insinuating that the Malays were taking a different view abt Herzog, were you not? So were you not trying to say that because of this non-support of Sg’s national view of Israel in 1986,then Malays should not be treated like any other Singaporean? Like I sayn please give them a break!

  7. Fox Says:

    Dr Huang,

    Yes, it was pretty obvious that the Malay-Muslim community took a different view of the Herzog visit.

    The point is not that Malays did not support the Herzog visit; there were other Singaporeans (Chinese, Indians, etc) who also did not support it. The point was it was Singapore’s sovereign right to host the visit (however stupid the decision was). Malaysia has no right to interfere in Singapore’s affairs when the visit did not concern them. There were Singaporeans who opposed the visit but defended Singapore’s right to host the visit.

    Subsequently, when the Malaysian politicians were threatening to demolish the Causeway and to turn Johor into a military zone, there was hardly a squeak from the Malay-Muslim community. Our Malay ministers were forced to keep quiet so as to not lose the support of their Malay constituents.

    Mind you, when Mahathir tried to stir up shit talking about how Malay Singaporeans were being oppressed, there were always a spirited defence of Singapore by our Malay compatriots whom I’ve always felt to be the best people to offer that kind of response.

    It was just that during the Herzog visit, the silence was deafening. It shows that religion can affect for people’s loyalty to the country.

    Be pragmatic. What makes you think that, in the event of a war with Malaysia, however unlikely that may be, Malaysia will not practise religion-based psychological warfare against Malay Singaporeans?

  8. Fox Says:

    “So were you not trying to say that because of this non-support of Sg’s national view of Israel in 1986,then Malays should not be treated like any other Singaporean? Like I sayn please give them a break!”

    I’m saying that we should take into account the fact that in a conflict with Malaysia, Malay Singaporeans are most likely to be targeted for religion-based psychological warfare by Malaysia. Be realistic. The Herzog visit simply demonstrated how potentially vulnerable our Malay compatriots are to that.

    Suppose we invite the president of Israel Shimon Peres to Singapore for a state visit. What do you think will be the response of the Malay-Muslim Singaporean community?

  9. Shivam Says:

    Hi.

    Firstly, with the issue in mind, I totally agree that the government’s policy of meritocracy is obviously missing from this.

    I think MM Lee’s views are ridiculous. He says that he cannot trust that Malays will not turn against Singapore in the event that we go to war with Malaysia or Indonesia, our immediate neighobours who seem to be the most likely state adversary.

    If the USA and PRC were to go to war, we would definitely be an important military base for the USA. But, given how much MM Lee “angkat bola” the CCP, and the fact that he is an ethnic Chinese who keeps stressing the importance of having good ties with China, would it not be right of me(according to his own theory) to distrust him with the security of our nation?

    Also, I think we already do understand that Malaysia will definitely use psychological warfare as obvious from it being a pillar in our Total Defence policy.

    However, I do agree with the point that religion does affect people’s thoughts and actions today quite as much as it did back then.

    Nevertheless, I still think if we were to be invaded from the north, the SAF is definitely capable of a swift vicotry. Our technological superiority gives as a powerful edge, especially in the areas of command and control, communications, intelligence and firepower. And also given we operate in a network centric environment, the SAF will be able to work as a single force to counter threats, and im sure the Home Team might be put on alert to support the SAF and to ensure civil peacefulness.

    Regards,
    Shivam

  10. Gerald Giam Says:

    Fox – I see nothing wrong with Malay Singaporeans maintaining a silence during Herzog’s visit. I think they were in a very difficult position of damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. In fact in a normal democratic country, I would expect many citizens, not just Muslims, to protest against an Israeli president’s visit. The Israel issue is always a very divisive political one. This does not indicate a lack of patriotism. We need to grow up politically.

    When then-DPM Lee visited Taiwan in 2004, and China made such a big fuss about it, I didn’t see many ‘patriotic’ Chinese Singaporeans standing up for Singapore’s sovereignty. There were only a few letters to the press, one of which was mine.

    In response to your question, if Shimon Peres were to visit Singapore, I would expect many Muslims to oppose it, and for good reason. Unfortunately their public opposition will be completely suppressed because of their fear of being accused of lacking in patriotism.

    I feel sad and frustrated for our Malay compatriots.

  11. Fox Says:

    “Fox – I see nothing wrong with Malay Singaporeans maintaining a silence during Herzog’s visit. I think they were in a very difficult position of damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. In fact in a normal democratic country, I would expect many citizens, not just Muslims, to protest against an Israeli president’s visit. The Israel issue is always a very divisive political one. This does not indicate a lack of patriotism. We need to grow up politically.”

    That’s not the point. There were many non-Malay Singaporeans who opposed the visit.

    The point is, when Malaysia were doing all that sabre-rattling (like threatening to demolish the Causeway, threatening to turn Johor into a military zone, etc), Malay Singaporeans were silent. In contrast, non-Malay Singaporeans were quite vocal in their defence of Singapore’s right to host that visit.

    You admit that Malay Singaporeans can be put in a ‘difficult position’ with regards to religion. Doesn’t that prove LKY’s point? What makes you think that, in a conflict with Malaysia, Malaysia will not try to use that against us? And what makes you think that it will not work?

    “When then-DPM Lee visited Taiwan in 2004, and China made such a big fuss about it, I didn’t see many ‘patriotic’ Chinese Singaporeans standing up for Singapore’s sovereignty. There were only a few letters to the press, one of which was mine.”

    Were non-Chinese Singaporeans more likely to stand up for Singapore’s sovereignty than Chinese Singaporeans?

  12. Fox Says:

    Gerald,

    Let’s suppose you are right. Chinese Singaporeans can be put in a ‘difficult position’ with regards to race. I suggest to you that it does not matter much because the probability of a military conflict with China is far far smaller than that with Malaysia for the obvious geographical reason.

  13. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 29 Jun 2009 Says:

    [...] The 1st Malay Brigadier General – TOC: Singapore’s first Malay general – a star of things to come? – Chemical Generation Singapore: Our First Malay BG – What was Said and Not Said – Today In Singapore: All Hail The Generals – Random Thoughts Of A Free Thinker: A Malay-Muslim BG does not a policy change make – geraldgiam.sg: Malays deserve equal opportunities in the SAF [...]

  14. Solo Bear Says:

    Hi Gerald,

    I have never believed that Singapore’s system is meritocratic. I have always believed that it has racist policies just like Malaysia. The difference between Singapore and Malaysia is that at least, they are upfront about their racist policies. We are not.

    Fox:
    >>I’m not sure if anyone remembers but in 1986, the president of Israel Chaim Herzog visited Singapore. Protests erupted in Malaysia with politicians threatening to demolish the Causeway and to turn Johor into a military zone. While most Singaporeans rallied to Singapore’s defence, writing to the Straits Times in support of Singapore’s right to host Chaim Herzog, a certain ethnic community maintained a sullen silence.
    >>

    I remember that incident well. While it is true that a “certain race” (let’s be upfront and not coy – that race was Malay) was silent, it is not true that most Singaporeans rallied behind the Herzog visit. It was only a small very vociferous group (pro-PAP) that tried to rally behind the decision to allow Herzog to visit Singapore. Let me jog your memory a little on the background of the incident. For those too young to remember, judge for yourself after I have given the background.

    The 1988 Election fever was very close to this incident. The biggest and most feared opponent of the PAP then was Francis Seow. Francis was a real threat to the PAP. PAP would do about anything to get “support” from Singaporeans to see that they are returned safely to power.

    When Herzog visited Singapore, Malaysians called upon Singapore Malays to join their protest. Singapore Malays DID NOTHING. While some pro-PAP supporters tried to play this issue as a race card, it fell flat because the Singapore Malays did not show any support for Malaysia.

    I see the above as an important signal on where Singapore Malays stand. By remaining silent, they have shown that they have are not swayed by Malaysia. Instead of seeing that, some pro-PAP groups have used this to question Malay loyalty.

    I really don’t remember the Chinese Singaporeans supporting Singapore’s Herzog visit either. It was only some small group (read pro-PAP) pretending to be behind Singapore. And that too was because election fever was very close.

    During the 1988 Election Campaign, Francis Seow took a jab at then PM Lee Kuan Yew. LKY said that he was not aware of Herzog’s visit. He claimed he was told by then Dep PM Goh CT, then Foreign Minister Rajaratnam and then Home Affairs Minister Jayakumar. Francis said to the applause of the crowd, that how could anyone be taken in by LKY’s incredulous idea he was not aware of Herzog’s visit until he landed in Singapore? There was security to be arranged. State dinners to be arranged etc. And LKY didn’t know all that?

    The main talk of the town was that Herzog’s visit was used to create tension between Malaysia and Singapore, to shore up votes for PAP, when Malaysia start that verbal attacks. As it turned out, the tension at the other side was far more severe than PAP had anticipated. Pro-PAP parties had tried to create an “us vs them” scenario. It backfired.

    Instead of getting Singaporeans to support the PAP, most Singaporeans were more interested in seeing how GE results would take place, noting that this was the very first time a GE had GRC representation. There was talk that with Francis Seow around, it would be a great chance for opposition to swipe more than one constituency at one go, because of GRC.

    Now that Herzog visit is history, some parties try to play the race card. It is a pity that PAP always plays the race card. This is the trademark of Old Man Lee. He knows only one way to control the crowd. The race card way.

    I remembered that the Herzog visit was used to shore up support in anticipation to counter Francis Seow’s influence on the then coming 1988 Elections, rather than a racial issue of Singapore Malays’ loyalty. It was PAP and the media that played the race issue up when that plan failed.

    PAP has always been as racist as UMNO. Here are some articles I wrote about LKY’s very racist policies in Singapore which are still in force in Singapore.

    http://wherebearsroamfree.blogspot.com/2007/07/if-i-told-you-singapore-has-racist.html

    http://wherebearsroamfree.blogspot.com/2008/03/racial-quota-for-hdb-is-for-pap-to-be.html

  15. Ran Says:

    Obviously this is a timed trick to satiate the Malay community because old man Lee might be dying soon and he is afraid of his own paranoia of ‘instability’ after his passing.

    Any ‘instability’ though is brought about by the very system and social mentality that he designed.

    Read through Lee Kuan Yew: Race, Culture, Genes for more info – http://www3.ntu.edu.sg/lib/ne/lky/raceculturegenes.pdf

  16. nazryn81 Says:

    To FOX,

    Its so obvious that you belong to that typical percentage, agroup of people that refused to leave the paranoia of race behind and move forward like we should have 44 years ago.

    When the malays did nothing over the Israeli’s visit, it does not mean thet support the malaysian’s stand. Bear in mind, in 1986, the number of educated malays were quite low. Malays were less willing to speak up or have any capabilities to make themelves heard through various platforms to explain their position on this tricky issue.

    If Shimon Peres were to visit Singapore now, let it be! As a malay, I would not make this into a confronting malay issue. What happens in the middle east stays there and we should be more concerned on practices of racial prejudice in Singapore, ever endoresed by our dear PAP government!

    So Fox, stop harping with the racial issue. The central mindset is, are we ready as a nation to defend Singapore in unity should any ..i mean ANY threats arise. Stop that paranoia feeling that malaysia’ psychological warfare would seep its way thorugh. By saying it will is an insult to all Singaporeans especially malays. Be more matured and open

    It;s either you are still paranoid or you are finding the right words to express your desirable views!

    grow up!

  17. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Weekly Roundup: Week 27 Says:

    [...] Thoughts Of A Free Thinker: A Malay-Muslim BG does not a policy change make – geraldgiam.sg: Malays deserve equal opportunities in the SAF – nofearSingapore: Malays and SAF: Revisiting the issue [Thanks Dr.Huang] – My Singapore News: [...]

  18. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Weekly Roundup: Week 27 Says:

    [...] Thoughts Of A Free Thinker: A Malay-Muslim BG does not a policy change make – geraldgiam.sg: Malays deserve equal opportunities in the SAF – nofearSingapore: Malays and SAF: Revisiting the issue [Thanks Dr.Huang] – My Singapore News: [...]

  19. Fox Says:

    We should try thinking how Malaysia would respond in the even of a military conflict with Singapore. Let me use a likely scenario.

    ————————————————————

    Let’s suppose Malaysia cuts off Singapore’s water supply and the PM orders the SAF to seize part of southern Johor. Obviously, due to its numerical and technological superiority, the SAF overcomes the MAF and occupies southern Johor. Thousands of civilians are killed in the process as the Malaysia army attempts to fight from the cities and towns.

    On the diplomatic front, Malaysia attempts to depict this conflict as aggression against an Islamic state. It gets the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) to issue a statement against Singapore, condemning the occupation. Fatwas are issued and in certain circles, there are calls for Jihad against Singapore. Singapore is also called a US lackey and another Israel. Footages of civilian casualties are broadcast on Al-Jazeera and CNN. Muslim soldiers in Singapore are urged by their fellow Muslims all over the world to disobey their officers or to desert.

    ————————————————————

    I will like to know how Malay Singaporeans will react in the above scenario.

  20. Shivam Says:

    The same can be said of Christians, Hindus, Bhuddists, Taoists and Sikhs, no?

  21. Fox Says:

    I doubt Fatwas and Al-Jazeera have much influence on non-Muslim Singaporeans.

  22. Gerald Giam Says:

    Fox,

    Firstly, I don’t expect the Malaysian govt to be stupid enough to cut off our water. Some silly UMNO politicians may call for that, but the PM knows that it will be foolish as we have already stated that will be considered an act of war, and given that our forces are superior to theirs, it would be suicide.

    But let’s say they actually cut off our water. The Malay Singaporean soldier and his family in Singapore need to drink water too right? No amount of psychological warfare will be able to convince the Malay soldier to drop his arms. He is fighting for his survival — of his family and, probably more importantly, his comrades in his unit whom he has been training for years with and whom he sees as his brothers.

    I’m not in the Infantry or Guards, where most Malay soldiers are deployed, but from my conversations with Malay friends who are there, and from Chinese friends who have witnessed the performance of their Malay comrades, I am told that they are just as ‘on’ as anyone else. I have no doubt that these well trained soldiers will fight to the end to accomplish their mission.

    Btw, OIC = Organization of the Islamic Conference.

  23. Fox Says:

    Thanks for the correction on OIC.

    Singapore actually has enough water for household use. In fact, we had enough water for household purposes since independence. I can easily imagine M’sia seizing the water treatment plant in Johor and then reduce the amount of water sent to Singapore. We won’t die of thirst but it would be a clear treaty violation.

    War is unlikely to break out but you don’t formulate policies just on the basis of ideals.

    No one is singling out Malay Singaporeans because they are Malays. We have to take their race and religious affiliation because we’re next door to Malaysia and there is a history of racial politics in this neighborhood. If we were next door to India, then special considerations have to taken for Indian Singaporeans. Singapore has nothing against Malays. We have a close military relationship with Brunei although that is because our strategic interests are well-aligned (small countries in danger of being dominated by a much larger Malaysia).

    I have no doubt that if their survival were directly threatened, Malay Singaporeans will fight as hard as other Singaporeans. The problem is, not all conflicts will involve Singapore being cornered and fighting for survival. You plan for all contingencies, even the less likely ones.

    It is an ugly idea but someone has to say it.

  24. Gerald Giam Says:

    “The problem is, not all conflicts will involve Singapore being cornered and fighting for survival.”

    I don’t believe our defence strategy includes launching wars which are NOT fighting for our survival. Going to war itself would be disastrous for our economy (whether we win or lose the conflict). No Singapore leader in the right mind would launch an “elective” war.

    But let’s say our leaders do start behaving like Israel, recklessly bombing Malaysian kampungs, and using Malaysian women and children as human shields — not because it is necessary, but because they can. In that case, I wouldn’t blame any of our soldiers for deserting. Many Israeli IDF soldiers do just that.

  25. aygee Says:

    If the govt and Fox thinks that the Malays will be divided in an event of war with Malaysia or Indonesia, then i say its a failure of the govt’s national education, a result of keeping the races apart, of keeping the haves and have-nots, of creating racial elitism thru SAP, open-door policy to China nationals, etc etc. If the govt continues to keep reminding us of our difference, our races, we will never be united.

    and for the Malays who ARE divided in the event of war, then i say the whole lot of you should just go and live in Malaysia or Indonesia, where you think you’ll be better off. Do you think the opposing forces’ bullets can pick out the different races in our army – that their weapons and guns are aimed at the chinese and indians in our forces only? If you fall for the stupid psychological warfare of race and religion, then you deserve to be treated as you are, and marginalised in Singaporean society, as you claim to be. Then you can complain and play the victim all the time. And you will always not be allowed to be a leader of a “machine gun unit” or fly a fighter plane.

    Let’s not forget there are Chinese and Indians in their forces too.

    I’m a Malay, and if someone shoots at me, at my comrade, god damn it, i’ll be shooting back, regardless of his race!

    unless he’s shooting at my officer of my unit ;-) but thats a different story)

  26. Fox Says:

    Let me posit another hypothetical situation. Suppose there is a Malaysian column fleeing the advance of the Singapore Army. The former attempts to fight from a town full of civilians who are mainly Malay. You, as the Malay commander of an artillery unit, are ordered to shell the town with cluster munition. There is no way of avoiding high civilian casualties. What would you do?

    Note that similar situations occured in the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon when Hezbollah attempted to fight from the cities.

    The Malaysian armed forces probably plan on fighting from built-up areas to offset Singapore’s numerical and techonological advantage. They can well afford to trade civilian lives for time.

  27. Gerald Giam Says:

    Fox – if I were the CO of an arty unit and told to shell a civilian population (Malay or otherwise) with no regard for civilian men, women and children, I would probably defy the order. Why? Because that would be an unlawful order. How am I going to answer to the war crimes tribunal? More importantly, how am I going to answer to God?

    So you see, your example will not be a dilemma unique to Malays.

  28. aygee Says:

    If you’re the CO of an arty unit, and given command to drop bombs on some co-ordinates, you will exercise that order. its not a village. its co-ordinates.

    that is the madness that is war. Common sense, morality, religiously inclined or not, dont count any more.

    We have an even bigger issue because we are citizen-soldiers. Even in the Israel forces, there are soldiers who refuse to fight, becuase they see the injustice. The moral issue will affect any race in the advent of war.

    Malaysian fighting from BUAs? civilian lives over time? Fox – you sound like singapore is going to be the aggressor in the advent of war.

    with due respect, methinks you are just thinking up scenarios to support your belief that Malays shouldnt be there.

  29. Fox Says:

    Gerald,

    “Fox – if I were the CO of an arty unit and told to shell a civilian population (Malay or otherwise) with no regard for civilian men, women and children, I would probably defy the order. Why? Because that would be an unlawful order. How am I going to answer to the war crimes tribunal? More importantly, how am I going to answer to God?”

    That’s called asymmetric warfare. That’s how one side would fight when it has a material disadvantage.

    What if the Malaysians place rocket launchers and artillery pieces in their built up areas and fire them against Singapore forces? Will you refuse to return fire simply because their artillery units are in urban areas with civilians?

  30. Fox Says:

    “Malaysian fighting from BUAs? civilian lives over time? Fox – you sound like singapore is going to be the aggressor in the advent of war.

    with due respect, methinks you are just thinking up scenarios to support your belief that Malays shouldnt be there.”

    I suggest you read “Defending the Lion City” by Tim Huxley. One of the scenarios discussed is the seizure of the reservoirs in Johor in case Malaysia unilaterally terminates its water treaty with Singapore.

    Of course, Singapore needs to have the *option* of being the aggressor or at least conducting a first-strike. You think we have jungle training in Brunei for fun?

  31. aygee Says:

    i’ve served my nation, as an active and reservist, and thanks for the suggestion, but i dont need a foreign academic to tell me what scenarios we’ll be facing. Even in my BMT we’ve already talked about them.

    Sorry but we’re drifting away from the point, which is, officers take orders, and passes them on to be executed. You seem to think Malay officers wont be able to execute them, if it involves killing Muslim civilians/soldiers, or if they use Islamic propaganda as the cause for war. Gerald and i agree that any officer would be “disturbed” if it kills civilians, regardless of race/religion.

    In war, reason and morality will be flushed down the toilet. You do as you’re told, or your comrades die. We will have to shoot back, if people shoot at us. My point being, its an issue of being citizen-soldier, rather than full-time soldier, where the morality and madness of war are competing in a soldier’s mind.

    Your point, from what i’ve read so far, is to come up with various scenarios, and then use those scenarios to back up your point that malays cant do it – therefore they shouldnt be officers or even fight at all.

  32. aygee Says:

    and also, the slippery slope argument is such an easy thing to get into. what if this, and what if that… one can always come up with a “what if” that eventually we cannot argue on. As such, i’m done with commenting on this point. thanks.

  33. Fox Says:

    “You seem to think Malay officers wont be able to execute them, if it involves killing Muslim civilians/soldiers, or if they use Islamic propaganda as the cause for war.”

    This is not a binary situation in which all our soldiers either carry out the order or not. There will be some soldiers – Malay, Chinese, Indian, etc – who would not be able to execute the orders. My point is that it is likely that there will be proportionally more Malay soldiers who would have conscientious objections.

    Race and religion are of course sensitive issues. I used the Herzog example to illustrate how it is possible to split one ethnic community from the rest of the country over a religious issue. To be fair, in the event of a military conflict between China and the US over Taiwan, I would also expect certain sections of the Chinese-speaking community to act divergently from the rest of the country if Singapore consents to hosting and supplying US warships and planes.

    If religion is a non-issue, then why are all the JI operatives, who plot to attack targets in Singapore, Muslim Singaporeans? Yes, National Education may be a failure and we have racism but is the right response to then assume that ethnic communities respond identically to all issues?

  34. Fox Says:

    Restricting Malay participation in the SAF is a kind of racial profiling.

    Racial profiling does work in the US. In the US, young black men commit a disproportionally large fraction of the crimes. So, mathematically speaking, it makes sense for the cops to pull them over and ask them for their IDs since they are more likely to catch those with outstanding arrest warrants. Although racial profiling works, it is unfair to the majority of black Americans who are law-abiding. In its purest form, racial profiling IS racial discrimination but it works. So, you have a trade-off – you can either opt for less crime or for less racial discrimination.

    With regards to Malay participation in the SAF, it is foolish to believe that all ethnic communities will react identically in the event of a military conflict with Malaysia. There is a good chance that Malay soldiers will prove to be less reliable (this does not mean that they are not reliable) than non-Malay soldiers and are more vulnerable to Malaysian psychological warfare (this does not mean that they are vulnerable).

    Does that mean that we MUST then automatically restrict Malay participation in the SAF? No! We have a choice. We can choose racial *fairness* and treat Malay participation like Chinese or Indian participation in the SAF. But we must understand that there will be a trade-off. If fairness is important to us, then we will make the trade off. At least we will make the trade off with honesty.

    By the way, most Americans – blacks and non-blacks – reject racial profiling.

  35. aygee Says:

    “My point is that it is likely that there will be proportionally more Malay soldiers who would have conscientious objections.”

    Based on? the Herzog situation? The other commenters above have countered to your argument. But you chose not to counter-argue their points, but instead come up with other scenarios, of which we’re asked to defend.

    “If religion is a non-issue, then why are all the JI operatives, who plot to attack targets in Singapore, Muslim Singaporeans?”

    That is JI, a radical organisation with militant/terrorist inclinations, made up of non-mainstream people who think they are doing things for a higher purpose. They have elements in Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines, if reports are to be believed, not just muslim singaporeans. The Singapore Armed Forces and its malay/muslim soldiers are not radicals.

    Based on your same argument, then, if we shouldnt assume that all ethnicities react the same, then why are we assuming a majority of muslims’ loyalty be affected? Gerald’s post alone, and the number of comments, along with those at TOC, also show that we dont think like that anymore. We Malay/Muslims are thinking people, and not swayed by bullsh*t. Why do some people still harbour suspicions on us?

    And on terrorism, here’s a quotation from Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown:

    Teacher: Terrorism, has a single goal. What is it?

    Student 1: Killing innocent people?

    Teacher: Incorrect. Death is only a byproduct of terrorism.

    Student 2: A show of strength?

    Teacher: No. A weaker persuasion does not exist.

    Student 3: To cause terror?

    Teacher: Concisely put. Quite simply, the goal of terrorism is to create terror and fear. Fear undermines faith in the establishment. It weakens the enemy from within… causing unrest in the masses. Write this down. Terrorism is not an expression of rage. Terrorism is a political weapon. Remove a government’s façade of infallibility, and you remove its people’s faith.

  36. Fox Says:

    “Based on? the Herzog situation? The other commenters above have countered to your argument. But you chose not to counter-argue their points, but instead come up with other scenarios, of which we’re asked to defend.”

    I have not seen any counter arguments which disprove my point that it is possible to divide the Malay community using religious issues.

    Let me quote from Lee Lai To (Singapore in 1986: Consolidation and Reorientation in a Recession, Asian Survey, Vol. 27, No. 2, A Survey of Asia in 1986: Part II (Feb., 1987), pp. 242-253):

    “As for Singapore officials, apart from Rajaratnam, the senior minister in the Prime Minister’s office, who asserted that Singapore had done nothing wrong in inviting the Israeli president, they met their neighbor’s furor with silence. It was only on December 5 that nine Muslim MPs from the PAP spoke up in support of the government. They added that the concern among Malays in Singapore was not disloyalty to the nation.24 On De- cember 9, Foreign Minister Dhanabalan reiterated in Parliament Singa- pore’s sovereign right to invite the representative of any country with which it had relations, but he stressed that Singapore’s view on the Pales- tinian problem did not differ from those of its neighbors and Singapore would not allow itself to be used to undermine the security and stability of Malaysia or any other ASEAN state. Finally, Prime Minister Lee claimed in a talk on December 12 that although he agreed in principle in late 1984 to a visit by President Herzog, he did not know the once-post- poned trip would take place in November 1986 until he read about it in the press. Had the decision been put before him again, he said, he would not have canceled it but postponed it because he would not wish to slight Prime Minister Mahathir, who spoke on Zionism in Parliament only two weeks before the visit was announced. He further revealed that the gov- ernment took two opinion polls, one before and another after the Herzog visit. The first showed that, among Muslims in Singapore, 51% of the respondents were not against the visit. The second poll showed this figure had fallen to 29%. In contrast, 76% of non-Muslims were not against the visit in the first poll and 77% in the second. His conclusion was that in certain circumstances, the Malay Singaporean reacted more as a Malay/ Muslim than as a Singaporean, and he wondered if all Singaporeans would stick together in a crisis.

    After mid-December, it seemed that both the Singapore and Malaysian governments would like to let the dust kicked up by the Herzog visit settle down. As far as the Singapore government was concerned, the visit had raised doubts on whether the Singapore identity had taken root in view of the reactions of its citizens, notably the Muslims. In fact, the religious belief of some Muslims also led them to demonstrate against the Pope’s five-hour stopover in Singapore on November 20. Nevertheless, the Israeli visit was a good lesson in self-reliance if no support from friends was forth- coming. As there was exceptionally wide coverage of the reactions of the region to the visit, it was also used to educate Singaporeans on the realities of Singapore’s relations with its neighbors.”

  37. Gerald Giam Says:

    We’re coming back to Herzog’s visit again.

    The more you mention it and the circumstances surrounding it, the more irrelevant I feel it is to this discussion.

    Does it mean that just because one segment of society doesn’t agree with a govt policy, they are therefore as a group anti-Singapore? Sure religion may have played a part in many Malay Singaporeans at that time opposing the visit. But that doesn’t make them any less Singaporean or loyal. It was the Malaysians that tried to play the race card to divide us. You’re assuming that the Malaysians played the race card and Malay Singaporeans fell for it. But I suspect that even without the Malaysians getting involved, Singapore Malays would have been equally opposed to the visit.

    I wasn’t aware of some Muslims demonstrating against the Pope during his visit. But so what? That is their right.

    Don’t be a sucker and fall for the ruling cabal’s propaganda that disagreeing with a govt policy makes one disloyal and dangerous.

  38. Fox Says:

    Gerald,

    I’m not implying that Malay Singaporeans are disloyal.

    What I’m saying is that when there are issues involving Islam or Muslims, Malay Singaporeans tend to react divergently from the rest of Singapore. The Herzog visit is just an example. Another example is the 1991 US-led war against Iraq. I don’t have the source right now but I remember reading that opinion polls showed that a large percentage of Malay Singaporeans (larger than non-Muslim Singaporeans) were opposed to the US-led military action despite the fact that Kuwait, a Muslim country, was the victim of unprovoked Iraqi military aggression.

    In a military conflict between Malaysia and Singapore, any damn fool can foresee that Malaysia will use religion as part of their psychological warfare.

    People will react differently because of race and religion. In the event of a military conflict between the US and China over Taiwan, and Singapore acts as a forward supply base for US ships and aircraft, I’ll expect some Chinese-speaking Singaporeans to react divergently from the mainstream because of ethnic ties.

    “You’re assuming that the Malaysians played the race card and Malay Singaporeans fell for it. But I suspect that even without the Malaysians getting involved, Singapore Malays would have been equally opposed to the visit.”

    It is not the percentage of Malay Singaporeans who opposed the visit that worries me. It is the *change* in the percentage before and after the visit that is a source of concern.

    How would you explain the change in the percentage of Malay Singaporeans not against the visit from 51 percent before the visit to 29 percent after the visit? In contrast, the same percentage of non-Muslim Singaporeans against the visit changed by only one percent.

    What do you think made 22 percent of those Malay Singaporeans polled change their minds?

  39. Kenny Cee Says:

    Hi. Just want to say, its a little pointless to hypothesize what some people may or may not do in a combat situation. The wider principle of meritocracy should be the question in focus.

    Here, I too feel that meritocracy (what I feel should be interpreted as an absolute fair is fair), is not followed to the T. Not just about race, but within races, and in fact across the entire country. What is painfully obvious is that we breed an elite here, and we’ve engineered that from the time our kids go to school.

    Regardless of race, language or religiion, no doubt; if you’re part of that elite, you end up more equal than the vast majority of Singaporeans. In a socio (read pseudo)-capitalist society, there is nothing wrong with that. We just really shouldn’t toot our horns about meritocracy, for fear of looking plain ridiculous.

  40. aygee Says:

    sorry, even though i said i had enough of this conversation, i’m compelled to respond.

    Fox,

    Since we know they will use psychological warfare, any damn fool can foresee it, as you put it, well, we certainly can take precautions against it now, right? empower our malays, let the good ones rise to the top, to show that they are contributors to the defence of Singapore? Tell the Malays that the govt and the SAF trust them. Have better national education? build better cohesion amongst ourselves? Singaporean, rather than Malay, Indian or Chinese?

    Or should we continue with policies to keep the Chinese majority? Or have an education system that creates only chinese-speaking elites? Or should we treat Malays with suspicion and keep them on the periphery, and thus let the distrust fester on and on?

    Herzog and the first Gulf War are all past examples. I’ll accept the poll when i get more info – which age group, which gender, what education level. What you’ve quoted generalised the situation too much.

    The divergent views may be because of less information read by Malays at that time. And i’d also like to see how the poll was carried out, how the questions were asked. Part of my job involves doing research and i know for a fact, research findings and questions can be geared towards showing a result that suits an agenda.

    And that poll may not reflect the situation today. The Malay middle class has increased and the education levels have improved. Our ulamaks and imams, who may have an influence on the Muslim population, are more exposed to global news. Radical elements in Singapore are well-controlled. Our mass media has improved a lot more now, and i would say the average working-class Malay is more well-read today that they were 2-3 decades ago.

    Anyway, this time, i’m really done. Because it seems we’ll never come to an agreement or a compromise about this point, Fox. You have decided that we Malays can be easily “misled”, while i disagree with that point.

  41. Fox Says:

    aygee,

    I agree with you that more must be done to integrate Malay Singaporeans into the mainstream. I also agree with you that Malays should be integrated into our armed forces. However, I don’t think that anyone should maintain the convenient pretence, as Gerald does, that their religious leanings should not be a factor.

    The allegation that Singapore has an education system that creates only Chinese-speaking elites is rubbish. If it is true, why are there so many Indian lawyers and doctors? Malays are not empowered in our education system? I will like to know what kind of opportunities are denied to them in our education system?

  42. Say no to prejudice Says:

    Fox,

    You’re a paranoid closeted racist who believes that because there’s the possibility that malaysia or indonesia will attack Singapore and that they allegedly will use Islam, even though there are non-muslims soldiers and generals serving in the Malaysian army), to get Malay Singaporeans to betray their homeland, it is thus justified and reasonable to deny Malays in the elite units in SAF.
    The nazis were white christians when the americans and their allies, who both happened to be mostly white christians, risked their lives to fight against the nazis and establish peace in the world.
    Your Malay brothers and sisters have many non-muslim friends in Singapore whom they treasure dearly. Do you really think that some Malaysian islamic preacher is going to make us break that bond? If you hadn’t already know that by now probably due to your lack of interaction with people of other race & religion especially the malay people, the typical educated malay person is not a practitioner of blind faith, neither do we believe in any propaganda that might be imposed on us to abandon our loved ones and get them killed. Why such a crude and cruel perception on us?
    In Islam, the aggressors are the enemy no matter what they proclaim themselves to be, and we are required to fight against them for the sake of the innocents. This is what our prophet adhered to, and this is what we adhere to. Period.
    With that said, our religious leanings shouldn’t be a threat but an important benefit to the SAF due to the willingness to fight against the aggressors for the sake of the innocents.

  43. Nurulhuda Says:

    Interesting article….thank you.

    Once out of curiousity, I asked several of my nursing friends who are malay-muslim this question : If you are in an emergency situation where you have to choose to resuscitate two patient.. one a muslim another a non muslim, which one would you choose first?

    Without second thought the nurse answered me : of course the muslim patient first.

    Why? I asked because he/she is a muslim? .. they nod their head. What does this tells us. All of you can say about giving those malays muslim in SAF a chance etc, its interesting to do a study to really test their loyalty.

    I am one of those many non muslim malays who had a big arguement with my malaysian muslim malay friends over the isreali Pm visit. They label me as a traitor…

    It is my believe that the Malays are still stuck in the spiritual mode. They still have not move away from this whole notion that All Malays are Muslim. Not until the malays able to stand at the same platform with others non muslim malays [ the christian Malays, the hindu Malays etc ] and accept them as one racial group, Malays are still politically and religiously immature. They cannot be trusted.

    Are the Malays in SAF prepared to be serve under a Malay who is not a muslim? Same as I’m going to ask : will the Malays accept a non muslim malay as their leader? Nay!

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  46. Antiracist Says:

    I totally disagree with Fox’s point of view. As a Malay-Muslim myself, I will fight for Singapore and protect our independence. If you want to argue based on a religious context, I can tell you that it is mandatory for me to defend Singapore as defending my own homeland is part of a religious obligatory. You may say that Malaysia will cut off water supply to Singapore and that would immediately ignite a full-scale war. But let me tell you something…Since Malaysia proclaimed itself as an Islamic state, the politicians themselves would realise that it is simply WRONG to do so since the sources of water on their the face of this Earth belongs to the Creator. Islamically, they would realise that by cutting off supply to Singapore when they have nothing to lose, it would be WRONG since that is simply unIslamic. So in such scenarios, if SAF soldiers are commanded to invade Southern part of Malaysia, I would be more than willing to do so to ensure the survival of my fellow citizens. So if you are lacking the knowledge and experience of a Malay-Muslim, please do not utter plain rubbish and portray us as untrusted soldiers.

  47. Fox Says:

    What’s un-Islamic with Malaysia cutting off water supply to Singapore? If Saudi Arabia do not want to sell oil to Israel, are they doing something un-Islamic? If Turkey want to divert water flow from the Euphrates (which goes through Iraq), are they doing something un-Islamic?

  48. Nurulhuda Says:

    Questions:
    [1] “As a Malay-Muslim myself, I will fight for Singapore and protect our independence. If you want to argue based on a religious context, I can tell you that it is mandatory for me to defend Singapore as defending my own homeland is part of a religious obligatory.”

    It is easier said than done. You’ve seen this kind of talk a lot of time. I will do this, I will do that and such and such, but the real test will come when the actual thing happens, and then we will know. Otherwise it’s just plain talking and bragging. Why talk about mandatory, going for National Service is Mandatory, but there are many Malay –Muslim Singaporean male cross over to Malaysia and revoke their citizenship just to escape national service. I’m told Malaysia promise them instant citizenship and many more. I have known several.

    [2] You may say that Malaysia will cut off water supply to Singapore and that would immediately ignite a full-scale war. But let me tell you something…Since Malaysia proclaimed itself as an Islamic state, the politicians themselves would realise that it is simply WRONG to do so since the sources of water on their the face of this Earth belongs to the Creator. Islamically, they would realize that by cutting off supply to Singapore when they have nothing to lose, it would be WRONG since that is simply unIslamic.

    I always have a problem when people use this kind of reasons to justify their argument, and we are suppose to feel reassured with such logic. In Islam it is said, it’s wrong to hurt your own fellow faith, but what happen during the Iran Iraq war, when Iraq invade Kuwait, when Pakistan invade Bangladesh. They commit atrocities to their own fellow faith followers. What happen to this religious belief? Are they worshipping the different creator? Did you read the happenings in Malaysia? Many Malaysian Muslims especially the conservatives don’t think the Singapore Malays Muslims real Muslims. Didn’t you read the latest statement by the one Dr Ridhuan Tee Abdullah who labeled Singapore as “Jewish protégés”. How do you reconcile with this?

    [3] So in such scenarios, if SAF soldiers are commanded to invade Southern part of Malaysia, I would be more than willing to do so to ensure the survival of my fellow citizens.

    Reading such messages reminded me again of this speech by Dr Ridhuan Tee Abdullah who warned that Singapore might “eat” them up. I’m wondering what really going on in their head when they say those words.

    [4] “please do not utter plain rubbish and portray us as untrusted soldiers.”

    I don’t think so it’s plain rubbish. Their concern and fears are justifiable, just as the same concern Malaysia has of Singapore. You will continue to remain as un-trusted as long as you still stick to this Malay-Muslim mentality. You see in my opinion the Malay Muslim in general have not move away . You are stuck. Will you ever see yourself as a Malay first without the word Muslim attach to it?

    I remember going to the library and got hold of a book entitled : The Singapore Malay. The book looked very impressive, depicting the progress of Singapore Malays, then I saw the statement by Mr Lee Kuan Yew at the end [ I think] . I can’t remember the actual remarks Mr Lee Kuan Yew made but when I read it suddenly an image came to mind. The image of a university student, presenting his/her project to the teacher, looking so please with him/herself, believing he/she has done such a fantastic job, but what she/he got from the teacher instead is “Is this all you can give me? I’ve given you so much… taught you and given you the liberty but what I got in return. You are gurgling out everything I’ve taught you.. you have not given me anything new. I’m looking for something different, that makes you stand out from the rest, but you did not. Why?”

    Real progress for the Singapore Malays-Muslims is when they are able to fully accept their fellow non muslim Malays whole heartedly. When they dare enough to stand on the same platform publicly with them without having this fear of the backlash from their big brother across the causeway; Singapore Malays have the capability to be different, to stand out from their Malaysia counterpart and to show them by example, but why are you not doing it?

    Did you take a look at SINDA Website, they say “to uplift the Singapore Indian Community.” Did you see any such words of Indian-Hindu, or Indian-Christian or Indian-Buddhist. NO! But you see this many in the Malay groups especially in MENDAKI. Would you like to explain to me why is this so? How to trust you when you cannot even accept your own non-muslim Malays as your own?

  49. sarah Says:

    To Fox and Nurulhuda,

    Your arguments do not hold water at all. Please go and read all the sociological texts on issues of ethnicity and ethnic relations and state-sponsored racism in Singapore and you will understand the reality of the situation here. And also the everyday expressions of racism that Malays face (FYI I am not a Malay). The Malays are the most controlled and most discriminated community in Singapore and yet to their credit have remained largely peaceful, enduring the humiliation they encounter. Having lived with Malays, I know that my Malay friends believe God is the ultimate adjudictor. LKY’s racism knows no bounds. He will use any argument of shifting the blame to anyone he can afford to shift onto in order to justify his xenophobic maniacal thoughts. Its sad that young people here cannot see through his crafty deviousness. If many young people here think like Fox and Nurul, then I fear for the future of this country. God bless us all.

  50. Nurulhuda Says:

    Sarah “And also the everyday expressions of racism that Malays face (FYI I am not a Malay). The Malays are the most controlled and most discriminated community in Singapore and yet to their credit have remained largely peaceful, enduring the humiliation they encounter.”

    I am a Malay and yes! I too like many other Malays have endured the humiliation from my Chinese work mates. How do you think I come out of it? I think its you who do not understand the reality of the situation here.

    For some yes! they need the GOD to bless them all the time. For me what thats got to do with GOD.

  51. Teddy Says:

    The reality is harsh. Yes, but if you all come to think of it, would you betray your own country because of one corrupt politician whose above stated xenophobic and maniacal thoughts crafted into young minds, go to waste just like that?

    I would NEVER betray my own country in any circumstance, other countries coming to war with Singapore = the fate of my muslim, non-muslim comrades/friends/loved ones are in jeopardy and for all that I would just say “because the other part of the world is muslim, I do not want to fight against muslims” This is remarkably misunderstood, if you ask any religious priest out there, it IS wrong to kill, so why would you sacrifice your religion and beliefs to betray your country.

    Ask all of yourselves a question : When was the last time you forsaken yourselves?

    Have a nice day.

  52. Teddy Says:

    I forgot to add, do you think soldiers love to kill? They don’t look at the US Military, they go to Iraq only to neutralize the stubborn ignorant muslim who thinks killing another religion will land him in heaven for eternity, this is wrong, Allah and any other gods did not force humans into a religion, it is their faith at the end of the day which is questioned, how can you be a religion switching human? No right..?

    And if anyone thinks of rebutting my statement above, by asking “u said earlier it is not right to kill but u proved urself wrong” Well this is what I will answer in advance, if you don’t neutralize the wrong doers how many more potentially influential minds out there are u gonna sacrifice?

    In face, US Military men and women help the poor muslims in iraq, help find food, love and care for them. Dont ever in your life you people think you should love and care for those who do regardless of religion, this again questions your human ways to seperate controlled human minds and pure human minds who can differentiate right from wrong, justice and racism.

    Good day.

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  56. Maitey Says:

    Why is the focus on ‘if there’s a wa r btwn spore and malaysia’? So if there’s a war btwn spore and china do i trust the chinese who might have relative there? And I think all races have relatives all over the world. So who can we trust? This LAW is bullshit! Plain racism…

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