Thursday, 12 November 2015

Regardless of race

How far has Singapore come on the issue of race in the 50 years since the National Pledge vowed the creation of one united people?
By Walter Sim, The Sunday Times, 8 Nov 2015

To young Singaporeans brought up in an environment of racial harmony and social cohesion, the two race riots of 1964 that left more than 30 dead must be unimaginable.

But achieving today's multiracial society has not been an easy road, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last month stressed that it is still a work in progress.

At a forum held by, which is a national body focused on promoting racial and religious harmony, he told community and religious leaders: "For the younger ones who are lucky, who have never seen such racial strife before, we have to constantly remind them how precious this harmony is, how unusual and rare it is."

Indeed, even after 50 years of independence in which the pioneer leaders' vision of a multiracial society, where everyone is equal, has long been part of the Singapore identity, cracks still appear.

That vision was enshrined in the National Pledge: "One united people regardless of race, language, or religion." But, just last week, a comment on Facebook about the Malay language drew widespread ire - including from at least one People's Action Party MP, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC's Mr Zainal Sapari, who gave it a stern rebuke.

Yet another sign of room for improvement in racial awareness is how Eurasian Singaporeans have been mistaken for foreigners because of their features and Western-sounding surnames. Netizens were quick to label Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling an "ang moh", prompting his father to tell The Straits Times last year in Malay that he is a "true son of Singapore".

The latest census data for this year shows the Chinese comprise 74.3 per cent of the resident population. Malays constitute 13.3 per cent, while Indians form 9.1 per cent. The "Others" comprises 3.3 per cent.

Last month, Singapore inked a United Nations pact to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin. It expects to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 2017.

The move "further entrenches our commitment to this end, to unequivocally show that racial discrimination has no place in Singapore", said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.

Racially charged incidents which make headlines, such as racial profiling, are virtually unheard of here today. But is Singapore's brand of "racial harmony" merely one of peaceful coexistence? How far has the Republic come in eradicating racial discontent? Insight finds out.

The race issue: How far has Singapore come?
From violent race riots to being lauded for ethnic tolerance, that's how far it has come. But there is no room for complacency
By Walter Sim, The Sunday Times, 8 Nov 2015

The date is July 21, 1964 - barely a year since Singapore became part of the Federation of Malaysia.

A procession is held to mark Prophet Muhammad's birthday, starting at the Padang and ending in Geylang.

But the festive occasion will soon turn sour. A scuffle breaks out between Malays in the procession and Chinese bystanders, escalating into nationwide violence.

By the time a 13-day curfew was lifted, 23 people died and 454 people were injured. Singapore would later learn it was an orchestrated attempt to stir up racial tensions.

Two months later, another riot breaks out after rumours spread that a Malay trishaw rider was killed by a group of Chinese men, with 13 dead and 106 injured.

Fast forward to today and modern, independent Singapore is celebrating 50 years of prosperity and relative peace. Now, July 21 is notable as Racial Harmony Day, when young generations of Singaporeans go to school decked in racial garb and are taught the virtues of respecting diversity.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last month that no matter the progress over the last 50 years, it would be "complacent and dangerous" to be lulled into a false sense of safety that race and religion matters are no more the divisive issues they once were.

The Constitution of a newly independent Singapore had set the tone of what was to come. Article 152 says it is the responsibility of the Government "constantly to care for the interests of the racial and religious minorities in Singapore".

It also recognises the "special position of the Malays, who are the indigenous people of Singapore".

Separation Video
50 years ago, on this day, Singapore was thrust into independence. As Mr Lee Kuan Yew said then, every time we look back at what happened, it will be a "moment of anguish". But we picked ourselves up and worked hard to build this nation, with our pioneers leading the way. So today, let us give thanks, rejoice, and celebrate all that we have in our little red dot. Happy National Day to one and all! #SG50 #JubileeWeekend
Posted by Lawrence Wong on Saturday, August 8, 2015

Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had, in 1965, promised to build a multiracial nation. He said on Aug 9 that year: "This is not a Malay nation; this is not a Chinese nation; this is not an Indian nation. Everyone will have his place, equal: language, culture, religion."

He also rebuffed language agitators who were lobbying for a constitutional guarantee of the status of the Chinese language in spite of assurances that all four major languages are official and equal.

But developments in neighbouring countries continued to have some effect in the early years. When severe rioting between Malays and Chinese broke out in Kuala Lumpur on May 13, 1969, tensions spilled over, but the authorities acted quickly to contain the disturbance.


Various policies implemented over the years have enabled the peaceful co-existence that Singapore has come to be known for today - the Republic emerged top out of 142 countries in the annual Legatum Prosperity Index, released last week, for tolerance of ethnic minorities.

A bilingual policy was started in 1966, with English becoming the lingua franca. And in 1970, the Presidential Council for Minority Rights was established to scrutinise laws, so as to ensure there is no discrimination against any ethnic minority groups.

To ensure adequate minority representation in Parliament, the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) system has been in place since 1988. It requires political parties to field at least one minority candidate in each GRC team.

The Housing Board in 1989 also introduced the Ethnic Integration Policy that mandates a quota for minorities in HDB estates, so as to prevent racial enclaves from forming.

Although economic growth had benefited Singaporeans from all communities, by the 1980s, Malay community leaders were concerned that theirs was lagging behind in education. This led to the formation of self-help group Mendaki to help lift the community.

In the 1990s, other ethnic-based self-help groups were set up - the Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda), the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) and the Eurasian Association. There have been questions over the need for such self-help groups, but the Government has said it would not be a good idea for them to merge or operate under one umbrella. This is because certain community problems can be dealt with only by leaders from those communities.

It is still a work in progress - there are concerns that while the Malay community has made many strides, they still lag behind in areas like education and employability. To its credit, Mendaki has made much progress in helping the community through programmes catering to lower-income groups.

The ethnic-centric focus of the four self-help groups, however, has not stopped them from joining forces to help the wider community. They recently said they will set up a joint venture to run 30 school-based student care centres to better support the holistic development of children, especially those from less-advantaged backgrounds, by tapping the resources of all the groups.

This, in a sense, is a microcosm of Singapore, which pledges to be colour-blind in its meritocracy and economic growth by providing opportunities for all. And for the most part, Singaporeans have been happy to share the fruits of the Government's economic growth policies and not rock the boat.

A study on race by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and OnePeople.Sg in 2013 found that more than 90 per cent of the 2,000-plus Chinese respondents said they were comfortable with Indians and Malays as neighbours and employees - and about 85 per cent as close friends.


Yet as the country becomes more affluent and the racial wounds of decades past are increasingly forgotten, some are voicing dissatisfaction at other racial groups, and their views are amplified by social media.

This has also generated a pushback, notably from minorities. Independent scholar and activist Sangeetha Thanapal has used the term "Chinese privilege" to refer to behaviour of Singaporean Chinese, which she says is akin to "White privilege" in Western countries - not being able to see things from the viewpoint of others who are not in the majority.

Sociologist Mathew Mathews of the IPS also observes in a recent commentary that some minority Singaporeans are not comfortable in their own skin. He says: "They are more likely to be sensitive to the fact that they have physical attributes and cultural practices which differ from those of the majority. Minorities often consider how those of the majority view them."

And time and again, cracks have appeared. At least 16 people have been investigated, either under the Sedition Act or the Penal Code, for race or religion-related offences in the last 10 years.

This, after the section of the Sedition Act making it an offence "to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population" had been dormant from its inception in 1948 until 2005.

In 2012, former National Trades Union Congress employee Amy Cheong was sacked for her online diatribe against Malay weddings in void decks, and she fled to Australia after the resulting furore.

Some criticised the authorities' reaction in these cases as heavy-handed, but officials have always been mindful that isolated incidents can easily get out of control.

And two years ago, they did: the death of a foreign worker run over by a bus in Little India sparked a riot by about 300 people. In the process, 54 officers and eight civilians were hurt, 23 emergency vehicles were damaged, including five that were torched. It was contained within a few hours, and while the riot was not linked to race, some of the ensuing online rhetoric vilified the South Asian rioters on account of their race.

Just last week, a Facebook post that was critical about the Malay language drew a stern rebuke from Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Zainal Sapari, who wrote: "In today's age, racism is beyond basic comprehension and should not be allowed to take root in our society."

That these sentiments are hidden under the surface of a seemingly cohesive society is a sign that Singapore, despite the progress made, is "nowhere near being a race-blind society", says law don Eugene Tan, who has done research on ethnic relations here.

"Bubbling beneath our civil veneer, there are prejudices and stereotypes which occasionally surface to trigger bouts of soul-searching," adds ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute sociologist Terence Chong.

Starkly, the 2013 study also made headlines for the finding that more than one in two Singaporeans did not have a close friend of another race.

"We have sound principles in place but practice and realisation is the real challenge in some domains more than others," says social anthropologist Lai Ah Eng of the National University of Singapore.

"Some people and groups are downright ignorant and biased, others merely tolerate, but others are proactive in understanding and being appreciative."

As Singapore moves forward, it should seek to reduce the number of those in the first category and expand on those in the last.

What could be tweaked?
By Walter Sim, The Sunday Times, 8 Nov 2015

Of all the race-based policies implemented here, the group representation constituency (GRC) scheme is, by far, the most controversial.

Under it, political parties must field at least one minority candidate in each GRC team they put up for contest.

The intent of the policy, which began at the 1988 polls, was to ensure adequate minority representation in Parliament.

But in every election year - including at the recent general election - critics have complained that the system is unfair, saying that it allows some candidates to ride on the coat-tails of their more prominent or established running mates.

As such, they claim it gives the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) an edge over opposition parties.

Observers acknowledge the merits of a GRC system, but say it will "breed cynicism" if not managed properly and if there is no constant public education.

Institute of Policy Studies sociologist Mathew Mathews says the GRC system is an important safeguard which preserves the rights of minorities and ensures their representation in legislation.

This is something that cannot be taken lightly, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said in an interview with The Straits Times in August: "There's always a risk that race can be exploited or become relevant during a campaign, and minority candidates getting squeezed out or finding that their representation is substantially reduced. And, if that happens, is that good for Singapore?"

Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad tells Insight that it tends to be more challenging for a first-term Malay candidate to connect with non-Malay residents.

But he adds: "There are many permutations - the system could be tweaked or enhanced. Today, there has been a move towards making GRC sizes smaller."

The average size of GRCs at the 2015 General Election was 4.75, down from five in the 2011 polls.

Social anthropologist Lai Ah Eng of the National University of Singaporewould like the maximum number of members for each GRC capped at three, as in 1988, and also be reviewed at each general election, if not scrapped.

She also calls for a review of the quotas imposed under the Housing Board's Ethnic Integration Policy.

She thinks its roll-out has been inconsistent: "Should it still apply for rental cases when there is a disproportionate number of Malays and Indians in the rental population and queue? Or the minority quota is already filled for sale flats?

"If we are really worried about integration, why not have ethnic quotas for all Singapore residential areas? The rich are too exclusive and excluded from having to integrate."

Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute sociologist Terence Chong adds that "prescriptive policies" such as the bilingual policy should be looked at.

This broadly requires Chinese students entering school to learn Mandarin as their second language, Malay students to study Malay, and Indian students to take Tamil or another Indian language.

"Prescriptive policies often have an ideal ethnic culture in mind and seek to maintain this ideal through rules and regulation," Dr Chong says. As for the bilingual policy, it could be problematic because it "assigns culture and language to the colour of your skin".

Mr Zaqy says integration can be better fostered if Singaporeans are encouraged to pick up a third official language - beyond English and their mother tongue.

"Giving minorities the option to learn Mandarin, and for Chinese to take up Malay or Tamil, will enhance racial integration as people can start understanding, through language, the different cultures."

Then there are constitutional bodies such as the Presidential Council for Minority Rights (PCMR), which comprises 18 members of the racial and religious mix of Singapore. It scrutinises laws to ensure there is no discrimination against any ethnic minority group.

The current council is led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, and includes former Cabinet ministers Othman Wok and S. Dhanabalan, as well as Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Dr Lai notes that the council has not done or said anything about perceived discrimination here. She calls for a more diverse group of representatives on the council, hailing from more varied backgrounds and all walks of life.

But law don Eugene Tan, a former Nominated MP, says, while the PCMR has not issued any negative report in its 45 years since its founding in 1970, "imagine the disquiet it would cause to the minorities if the PCMR is abolished".

The PCMR, as well as other laws, such as Article 152 of the Constitution that protects minority rights, should be seen as "sentinels to maintain and enhance the quality of multiracialism in Singapore", he adds.

This can be likened to a "symbolic but powerful shield, rather than a sword, that the minorities can assert collectively against the Government of the day if it fails to care adequately for them".


Mr Baey Yam Keng, Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth, tells Insight that the Government recognises the need to continually review and adjust its policies, in consultation with the community, if changes are warranted.

But the backdrop is that racial and religious integration is an ongoing effort by everyone. "While we have various platforms such as the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles, the harmony we have today is the result of efforts from all to build trust among our different ethnic and religious groups," he says.

"In Singapore, we accept our ethnic differences and celebrate our ethnic and cultural diversity.

"The broad theme of the Singapore Government's policy on matters of ethnicity, in the context of our multiracial society, has consistently been to expand common spaces and to minimise divides while preserving our cultural heritage," he adds.

Race categorisation too rigid for increasingly diverse Singapore?
By Walter Sim, The Sunday Times, 8 Nov 2015

For some, it is an annoying part of form-filling, though for most others it comes as no big deal. That is the part of Singapore forms that asks you to categorise yourself as either Chinese, Malay, Indian or Others.

The classification, commonly known by its acronym CMIO, is one where the Government categorises people - be it citizen, permanent resident or work permit holder - into one of these four racial groups.

Residents have been classified by race ever since the first census in 1824.

One bugbear has been that the rigid model glosses over the increasing diversity of a Singapore with more mixed marriages and immigrants.

It ignores the cultural differences between Singaporean Chinese and mainland Chinese, for example.

National University of Singapore social anthropologist Lai Ah Eng points out that some local Chinese find they have hardly anything in common with newer Chinese immigrants. She and other observers also feel that Singaporeans of various races often find they have more in common among themselves than with more recent immigrants from similar ethnic backgrounds.

There have also been concerns that it is dehumanising to be lumped under the broad "Others" category, which ignores the rich heritage and diversity of those who do not squarely fit into the Chinese, Malay or Indian groups.

Sociologists tell Insight that the CMIO model is potentially constraining as it pigeonholes people and, to a certain extent, perpetuates racial stereotypes.

Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) sociologist Mathew Mathews adds that the model creates expectations of how to fulfil one's identity as a person who is "supposed to be a member of one of the racial groups".


The CMIO model is a relic of Singapore's colonial past when British rulers dealt with diversity by assigning residential districts to respective ethnic groups, and generally splitting labour along ethnic lines.

Some argue the CMIO model is now irrelevant in an increasingly diverse Singapore, even as it was modified in 2011 to allow double-barrelling for Singaporeans of mixed parentage.

Inter-racial marriages have been rising. Last year, they comprised 20.4 per cent of 28,400 marriages, compared to 13.1 per cent a decade earlier. Singapore also takes in between 15,000 and 25,000 new citizens yearly.

As Singapore becomes more cosmopolitan, the proportion of "Others" is also increasing and brings with it its own challenges, as members of different groups seek to be identified on their own merits rather than labelled as one of the three main ethnic groups, let alone "Others".

However, experts caution against discarding the framework entirely, defending the model as necessary to give tacit recognition to minority communities of their distinct cultures, religions and languages.

Associate Professor Eugene Tan of Singapore Management University's law school, who has done research on ethnic relations, points out: "Due recognition is, ultimately, a vital human need and an important political and legal measure; it's not just a courtesy owed to the racial groups."

But Dr Nazry Bahrawi, a humanities lecturer at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, disagrees, and argues that the CMIO model should be banished, saying its drawbacks outweigh any potential advantages.

Removing it does not necessarily mean that race is no longer important, nor make minority groups anxious, he stresses. That is, if Singapore is "serious about preserving diversity in all its manifestations and uphold the importance of equal cultures".

Then again, thought leader Ho Kwon Ping, who was the first IPS S R Nathan Fellow, said in an April lecture that the CMIO's rigid racial categories should be "consciously blurred or even abolished", as they reinforced stereotypes.

But Mr Ho rescinded his opinion that the CMIO model should be abolished at a panel last month held by sociopolitical website Inconvenient Questions.

This came as several of his minority friends told him that, were the CMIO model abolished, they were worried about a situation where "the Government says, we are all one happy people, let's not talk about the need to send a signal that there is a Malay minority and an Indian minority".

Immigration has exacerbated these issues.

While the Government has been conscious about maintaining a relatively stable ethnic balance, there are concerns among some in the Malay community, aired at grassroots dialogues, that their proportion of the population is slipping.

Latest data for the resident population - which comprises Singapore citizens and permanent residents - show they make up 13.3 per cent of the population this year, down from 13.9 per cent in 2005.

Comparatively, the proportion of Indians rose from 8.4 per cent to 9.1 per cent, and those in the "Others" group went from 2 per cent to 3.2 per cent.

However, the mix of citizens has remained relatively stable - 76.2 per cent Chinese, 15 per cent Malay, 7.4 per cent Indian and 1.4 per cent Others.


But regardless of whether CMIO stays or goes, experts who spoke to Insight agree a more nuanced approach is needed, as opposed to the "uncritical" collection of data based on ethnicity.

Prof Tan, a former Nominated MP, notes that collecting ethnic-based data can provide a pulse of how the different groups are faring. But he questions the release of annual data of how different ethnic groups perform at national examinations, which he says can lead to unintended consequences like the reinforcement of racial stereotypes.

He says: "Would a Chinese professional household face the same educational issues as a Chinese household on public assistance? Probably not. The latter household is more likely to have more in common (with) a non-Chinese household on public assistance." .

And Dr Nazry says: "A number of such surveys have positioned Malays as the most problem-riddled group - high divorce rates, weakest academic performance and most susceptible to obesity."

Such issues, he adds, are better gauged using metrics such as socioeconomic status and household incomes, rather than ethnicity.

Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad says removing references to race will not make any difference, especially as ethnic minorities will still be identified by names or skin colour.

"You can't run away from your background," he says, pointing out that while the United States has its first black President, it still sees heightened unrest due to race in areas such as Ferguson, after an unarmed black teenager was shot dead by a white policeman.

"It shows the divide is still there, no matter how hard you try to hide the race aspect."

Observers say above all, the retention of the CMIO model should never impede the building of a strong, shared Singaporean identity.

"Instead of pulling out the old chestnut of CMIO, let's see how we can further strengthen our civic identity and loyalty as Singaporeans," says Prof Tan.

Mr Ong Ye Kung, now Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), also wrote in a commentary in April that people should look beyond labels, be it "Singaporean" or "CMIO".

But this does not mean "CMIO" is no longer relevant, he added.

"The truth is no label can adequately capture the complex essence of a person, nor is it meant to," he wrote. "My label as a Singaporean is inadequate in describing who I am as a person. Likewise, being CMIO cannot be an adequate description for a stronger national identity, but that does not mean it should be de-emphasised or discarded."

He added: "We are better off if we respect and appreciate each other for all our rich diversity, treating everyone as equal, striving for a common destiny. As members of our respective community, we are also citizens of Singapore, with a lifetime of common experiences, creating an identity as one united people."

Race matters: What lies ahead?
Exploring the possibility of a non-Chinese PM, legacy issues, and the implications of UN pact
By Walter Sim, The Sunday Times, 8 Nov 2015

Seven years ago last week, the United States elected its first black President.

Mr Barack Obama's historic win got Singaporeans thinking: When, if ever, will Singapore be ready for a non-Chinese prime minister?

This question was put to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong days after the win. His reply: that he thought it was possible, but it may not happen soon. He also acknowledged that attitudes towards race had shifted as English provided more of a common ground.

This was reiterated by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam this year: "It seems to me inevitable that, at some point, a minority prime minister - Indian, Malay, Eurasian, or some mixture - is going to be a feature of the political landscape.

"We've got a meritocracy, it is an open system."

He noted that people share experiences like national service and are educated largely in English.

Thought leader Ho Kwon Ping, who is the first Institute of Policy Studies S R Nathan Fellow for the Study of Singapore, believes the country will accept a non-Chinese prime minister put forward by a "leading party" like the People's Action Party (PAP).

Indeed, the issue of race hardly figured during the recent general election. And a post-election survey of voters by the Institute of Policy Studies, released last week, showed that 83 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the ethnicity of the candidate they chose was not an important consideration.

However, several opposition candidates, like the Singapore Democratic Party's Mr Damanhuri Abas, did call for greater representation of Malays in sensitive combat positions within the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

Most Singaporeans may not give much thought to such issues - which observers refer to as "legacy" ones that should be carefully managed - on a day-to-day basis. But they are likely to continue to crop up as national issues at times.

Take the perception of under-representation of Malays in the SAF. Mr Damanhuri's comments prompted the PAP's Dr Maliki Osman, who is now Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs, to reply: "Our Malay servicemen have been recognised year after year, quietly and based on their competency."

Dr Maliki also noted that Malay SAF officers now hold various vocations, including commandos, armour officers, pilots and naval combat systems operators.

Former Nominated MP Eugene Tan, a law professor who has researched ethnic relations, tells Insight that despite the great strides made by Malay servicemen in the SAF, a perception persists that security matters are oriented on race, given Singapore's position in a predominantly Malay neighbourhood.

Prof Tan says: "Where the Malay/Muslim servicemen are concerned, national service as an institution of multiracialism, if not carefully managed, could accentuate perceptions of a less-than-inclusive multiracialism.

"This is why it is important to continue to work on strengthening the national identity so that the concerns that sectarian loyalties will trump civic, national ones, will be less challenging."

Looking at the big picture, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute sociologist Terence Chong sees a challenge in "preventing ethnic divisions from being a proxy for class divisions".

"In Singapore, the Malay community is still over-represented in prisons, drug rehab centres and financial assistance schemes," he tells Insight. "The reasons for this are complex but the result obvious - there are relatively fewer of them in the middle class."

Several Indian Singaporeans have also voiced concerns about a divide in the community between the well-off and those who lag behind in areas like education and employment, noting that minority Singaporeans tend to be over-represented in certain lower-paying service-sector jobs.

Moving forward, one potential issue is the lack of racial diversity in many boardrooms, says Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad. While he does not expect the imposition of any quotas, he believes that the conversation - largely centred on gender equality today - could still shift to include race as well.

Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Janil Puthucheary says that the form and nature of race-based challenges will continue to change over time.

The rise of online interactions is both a platform and a "trigger for behaviour" as the time between a comment and the reaction has shortened, says Dr Janil, who chairs OnePeople.Sg, the national body focused on promoting racial and religious harmony.

"So there will always be a need to remind ourselves and our children about the need for tolerance and understanding. To go further towards through (to) harmony and not stop at tolerance," he adds.

Meanwhile, humanities lecturer Nazry Bahrawi of the Singapore University of Technology and Design also sees fault lines increasingly being drawn along sociopolitical orientations - such as over greater acceptance of homosexuality.

With all these issues in mind, Singapore cannot be lulled into a false sense of security given its relative state of harmony today.

"Our stability and harmony cannot be founded on the shallow foundations of tolerance," Prof Tan says. "We really need to go beyond tolerance and forbearance to seek genuine understanding, recognition, and protection of the diversity that is an integral part of Singapore."

Nonetheless, Singapore's move to sign the United Nations convention to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination is significant, and will boost Singapore's standing in the international community.

There may be some policies on race that could be deemed by others as at odds with this commitment - but the Government also has the opportunity to make known its position on these areas, and make the point that they have the overall aim of preserving racial harmony.

As Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob said last month: "The signing of this convention attests to our confidence and the strength of our race relations here, as member states signing this convention will have to submit reports regularly and be subject to UN scrutiny.

"We are already practising the principles enunciated under the convention, so signing it is a logical step."

But addressing matters of race, and tackling discrimination, cannot be about the authorities alone, even though they play a key role.

Mr Baey Yam Keng, Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth, tells Insight: "We recognise the need to continually review and adjust our policies, in consultation with the community, if changes are warranted."

"We would like to call on every Singaporean to do his part, too, to strengthen racial harmony and combat racial discrimination. Together, we can ensure that racial discrimination will have no place in Singapore; and that our future generations will value and respect diversity."

Social X: Racism & PrejudiceIn this first episode of a brand new social experiment series dubbed Social X, we challenge six individuals to confront the issue of racism head-on. #socialx
Posted by RazorTV on Tuesday, November 17, 2015

In light of the ongoing debate about race categorisation in Singapore, we spoke to 40 people belonging to the 'Others' category and here is what they had to say:
Posted by The Middle Ground on Friday, November 20, 2015

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