Sunday 19 August 2012

A bridge between policy-makers and people: Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim

Dr Faishal feels the onus is on the Malay community to motivate itself to excel
By Phua Mei Pin, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2012

ASSOCIATE Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, 44, recently made the transition from the backbench when he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Transport. The Nee Soon GRC MP talks about his new post and excellence in the Malay community.

What are your hopes in your new role?

What I hope is to be a bridge between policy-makers and the people.

As an MP, I've always been close to the ground. I have 16 coffee shops in my area and I spend every Sunday at one of the coffee shops. Coupled with other visits and spending a lot of time with my stakeholders, I can bring whatever I feel on the ground to the policy-making platform.

When my appointment was announced, somebody said: "Oh, now you have to toe the line. You cannot state your views fully."

But I think it is the reverse. This new platform allows me to engage better and be a part of the whole process.

I will also continue to engage my residents, which I have been doing since I became an MP. It will not be the case that they see less of me or I listen less because I have become an office holder.

How has the Malay community responded to your appointment to political office?

Many in the Malay community welcomed the news of my appointment and have been very encouraging. What is important to me is that we should portray the image to Singaporeans that we are one team, even though we are all different players.

To me, at the end of the day, we have work to do. It is to better the lives of Singaporeans, whether you are Malay or Chinese or others.

Can we expect more leaders to emerge from the Malay community in the coming years?

As our country progresses, and aspirations of Singaporeans to do well in education go along with it, you would expect more and more people to be qualified.

But I think, more importantly, we need to get more Singaporeans to be involved in the community, to dirty their hands. Only then will they realise that the whole process of community engagement is complex. It requires not only IQ, but also EQ, a lot of listening and a sense of realism.

I would like to encourage more young Singaporeans to come forward to be involved with any organisation, not only political organisations. It can be a voluntary welfare or other organisation.

And I believe that you need to cast your net wide, so that we get the best people and form a diverse team.

I had no clear intention myself of becoming a community leader, but I was given the opportunity to be involved. Our leaders should continue to invite or give opportunities for people to be involved in this kind of work. At the same time, the youngsters must open their hearts to go into this process.

What do you think of the awarding of the President's Scholarship to the first Malay student in 44 years?

I feel not only the Malay community should be happy, but Singaporeans should also celebrate this.

This is the success of our system - where you can see people from all walks of life having social mobility. The whole idea is to see how we can facilitate this process for more Singaporeans, to let them believe in this system.

I hope this will encourage and motivate more Singaporeans, not necessarily Malays only, to see that Singapore really is a city of possibilities - to think whether I want to excel in my education, my profession, the arts or so on, there are opportunities.

You must believe in yourself, and you must believe that the system will help you to move along the line.

What do you say to those who think this honour has been too long in coming for the Malay community?

Personally, I want someone to be there for what he has achieved, not because we are entitled to it. President's Scholarship winner Adil Hakeem deserves it; it's something he has achieved.

The onus is on us, the community, to work together to motivate one another, to provide opportunities for one another to excel.

I wouldn't want a situation where everyone only looks up to a President's Scholarship winner. I want a situation where everyone has his own peaks of excellence and is able to achieve them.

While there can only be a certain number of such winners, the rest should also celebrate their own achievements.

Are more measures needed to help young Malays excel in education?

I'm very optimistic that there will be more scholarship winners to come. They may not all win President's Scholarships, but we've seen more and more at other levels.

We need to continue to give the right motivation and support, to the lower stratum in particular, so that they can aspire and excel to their potential.

Honestly I'm very encouraged by my engagement with young Singaporeans, including those from the Malay community.

They want to do it on their own, in the sense that they are quite hesitant to go via affirmative action. They believe they can be part of the whole engine of contributing to the growth of Singapore.

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