I’ve been following with interest the debate about the issue of having a Prime Minister coming from a minority ethnic group.
For me personally, the issue is quite black and white: I would vote for a leader based on the merit of his ideas, values and leadership qualities. But if it is a choice between two equally good candidates, one Chinese and the other from a minority race, I would likely vote for the minority because I feel it would reflect well on us as a colour-blind nation.
Some time back, I asked an older Chinese Singaporean if she would vote for a non-Chinese PM. She simply stated that whoever is PM would tend to champion the rights of his own race over other races. Whether this was her realist assessment or her personal prejudice, I don’t know. But I suspect it is indicative of the way a lot of people — and not just Singaporeans — think: If I’m from the majority race, a PM from my race will defend the rights of all Singaporeans, but a PM from other races will only take care of ‘his own people’.
Put another way, we the majority race always treat other races equally, but minorities only defend their own kind. This is flawed and self-righteous thinking.
Who is to say that a Chinese PM will not champion the rights of Chinese over other races? Many would argue that this is already happening. The discrimination of Malays in the armed forces and the disproportionate resources pumped into mono-ethnic SAP schools are prime examples.
Ultimately I am persuaded that it is not Singaporeans who don’t want a non-Chinese PM, but the PAP leadership which chooses their Secretary-General.