a community of singaporeans

Beyond Tokenism- Malays, Integration and the SAF

Posted by theonlinecitizen on November 6, 2007

By Kamal Mamat

I would like to propose several hypotheses which I gathered after conducting a series of intense and scholarly empirical research on the levels of representation of the Malays in the SAF.

Due to space constraints, I will only list down three of them.

1. Malays’ absence in the Navy. Malay men generally cannot swim because they cannot afford the swimming lessons when they were young. In any case, they have to attend mengaji (Quranic recitation) classes in the afternoons, soccer training on Saturdays and wedding invitations on Sundays at different void decks.

2. Malays’ absence in the Armour unit. It is medically proven that Malay men are more likely to be afflicted with claustrophobia. They hate enclosed spaces, which unfortunately include the armoured vehicles of the SAF. Their propensity for spatial wealth instead of material wealth can be seen in their natural ability to congregate at void decks and the beaches of East Coast Parkway and Changi.

3. Malays’ nominal presence in the Air Force. This is the simplest one- Malay men don’t aim for the sky, they aim for the stratosphere after the sky, a.k.a. the hereafter. A Malaysian Malay proved it recently by being the first Malay to space. Coincidentally, the word hereafter can be referred to in spiritual terms. This hypothesis strongly correlates with hypothesis 2.

 I don’t mean to mock the serious nature of this forum. Let me say that that I really cannot find other reasons to explain why the Malays are under-represented in the Navy, the Air Force and key, presumably sensitive, units of the Army. Bearing in mind that the Malays make up almost 15% of the population, the lack of corresponding representation in the SAF in this day and age begs questions on why tokenism persists.

When the SAF celebrated forty years of National Service recently, you cannot help but notice that in the early years of NS, the Malays were conspicuously absent. Those black and white photos that were shown was a trip down memory lane for those who had been in it, those who had experienced it. Alas for us Malays, the lane did not exist. It begs my question, what should the Malays do to convince the government that we’re ready to be deployed fully in the armed forces?

Before anyone shout cliché or label me outdated, let me assure you that there is no better time than now to resurface this prickly issue of Malays in the SAF. The events of the recent past provide new impetus for changes to be made and the issue of integration to be taken more seriously. Inherent in this are questions of security and trust, which I am going to discuss here.


The events of 2001/2002 surrounding the Malays have been the clarion call for the government to pay close attention to the issue of integration. If one were to recall, the WTC collapse of September 11, 2001, the crackdown of Jemaah Islamiah (JI) in December 2001 and the tudung (headscarf) affairs of January 2002 came like a fusillade which left an indelible mark in the consciousness of the Malay/Muslim. Throughout this period, the Malay community was put in a spot by virtue of its ethno-religious association to the events.

Malay leaders scrambled to denounce those events and call for greater understanding amidst increasing suspicions about Islam, fundamentalism and ultimately, Malays’ loyalty to the country. In one report, it was highlighted that an elderly Chinese lady refused to take the same lift with a Malay man, presuming that he was a potential terrorist. This is just one instance of the fear the events have unfortunately created among the wider society then.

It was to its credit that the government responded quickly in suppressing any signs of inter-ethnic tensions. Over the years, the Malay community itself responded by using different platforms to promote greater understanding about Islam.

However, while asserting that extremism is an exception rather than the norm within Singapore’s Malay community, the pressure on the Malays not to isolate themselves from the wider society was simultaneously made. Essentially, it is a call for the Malays to participate actively in national and grassroot activities, noting its under-representation.

Judging from this call, it is only logical for the government to take the first step and reciprocate by opening more avenues for integration. The SAF, one of the key symbols of the nation, is one avenue which can and should be fully opened to every Singaporean, including the Malays.

In fact, in a report on ethnic relations conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies in October 2002, it noted, albeit subtly, that ‘posting a mandatory percentage of minorities into each army unit could further ethnic cohesion’. I’ll put it more bluntly. It is the sine qua non to further integration. It is in the government’s hand now to take this recommendation seriously.

Security and trust

Security and trust are two narratives our leaders trumpet to account for the under-representation of the Malays in the SAF. But these narratives do not hold water anymore. Singapore is an island nestled between its two dominant countries, Malaysia and Indonesia. One draws similarity to Israel, a small Jewish nation in the middle of the Arab world.

Our founding leaders drew upon their experience to develop a siege mentality which, for reasons of security, prevented the Malays from partaking in the defence of Singapore. In fact, Israel has been instrumental in the formation of our armed forces and the development of our defence capabilities.

But this mentality is flawed when one looks at the different historical contexts. On the one hand, the birth and the subsequent history of Israel was a contentious and complex one, full of bloodbaths and cycles of violence.

Singapore, on the other hand, has seen relatively trouble-free years of independence. Except for the Konfrontasi episode of the late sixties, we have gone through a relatively peaceful forty-two years of co-existence with our neighbours. The parallel between Singapore and Israel ends here.

The siege mentality must go.

Granted, the geopolitics of ethno-religious identities, shared memories and historical proximity between Singaporean and Malaysian Malays necessitate a cautious approach in the conscription of Malays in the SAF. This explain why up to the 1980s, the Malays were hardly enlisted into National Service.

However, since the mid-90s, we saw a small but increasing number of Malay men in more sensitive units such as the air force and the commando units. If this trend is any indication of the government’s plan for integration of the Malay community, it is now the right time for this plan to go further and support full integration of the Malays in the SAF.

What about the question of trust? Wouldn’t a Malay man be put in a dilemma when asked to fight his brethren? The history of the world has shown us that common identity does not prevent people from killing each other. We have seen the two Koreas and northern/ southern Vietnam at war in spite of their commonalities.

It all boils down to ideological differences. And ideologies can be propagated when a society is more cohesive, more integrated. What better ways can the government think of other than allowing our Malay men to fight, not just in the infantry but the first lines of defence? Wouldn’t the ideology be more easily disseminated? After all, the Malays want to embrace Total Defence in its totality, not a fraction of it.

In a passionate plea written during National Day many years back, Zuraidah Ibrahim, now the political editor of The Straits Times, argued for Malays’ trust to not be questioned. I share her sentiments. Let’s dispense with tokenism, please. After which, we can truly say Majulah Singapura.

About the author: Kamal is the latest addition to the TOC’s writing team. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Politics at Queen’s University in Belfast. Kamal describes himself as “your typical brudder, typical Mat, typical Singaporean. Also a son, husband, father and a student of politics.”

Kamal has a blog here.



38 Responses to “Beyond Tokenism- Malays, Integration and the SAF”

  1. […] Discourse – Why I am going online – The Online Citizen: Beyond Tokenism- Malays, Integration and the SAF – sgForums: Review of Autocracy (called leadership) versus […]

  2. ney reed said

    Some of my Malay peers during my National Service always will air their dissatisfaction to the Sergeant during training time that they were not sent to the Army and will demand answers to why it is the case. The standard answer is always that the Army has to make provisions for Halal food which is not simple. Later on when I lived abroad and got to meet Canadian born and UK born Muslim friends joining their state armies either as regulars or reserves, this was always the question I posed to them. How did those armies accomodate their Halal food requirements since in those environments it is a lot more challenging to find chefs to cook prepare Halal food? They informed me that their armies took considerable effort whereby in the worst cases they were at least provided with vegetarian dishes which are Halal and in the best cases they had Halal meat. They were also allowed to bring in food. Hence they never believed food was a problem and were surprised to hear about the case in Singapore.

    I myself remember I used to get post cards and other marketing phamplets from the Singapore Navy when I was in high school and junior college and once when I replied to it once suggesting I am interested to join, I never received any reply nor any more marketing phamplets. I am sure some will try to reason with me that the postman probably misplaced my mail to the navy and that I need not worry about being a Muslim. The experience of Muslims in Canadian army is rather a recent one. Even though British Army had Muslim soldiers in colonial days, it is still a recent phenomenon for Britain born Muslim soldiers serving within Britain. Just as how one may argue Muslim soldiers pose a threat to Singapore army due to our neighbours being Muslim countries, one can equally argue how Canadian and British armies face the threats of Muslim soldiers turning against them due to their foreing policy. The historic British army already had in 19th century a case of Indian Muslim Sepoys turning against them in mutiny. Despite all this in the case of British and Canadian armies, they have proven to deal with the situation more maturely and effectively instead of being chronically paranoid about it.

    Another army that has been constantly surrounded by debate and controversy about the representation of minorities especially Muslims in its columns is the Indian army. However in India it is a topic that is openly discussed at all levels from university academics to media to politicians to grassroots.

    Yet the representation of Muslims in Indian army is not as dismal as in Singapore army. In the modern history(post independece) of Indian army, there definitely has been more high ranking officials then here (e.g. generals etc). During the 3 or 4 border wars India has been involved with Pakistan including the recent Kargil conflict, Indian Muslim solders were deployed at the battlefields. Amongst those Indian soliders who gave their lives during those wars, it included Indian Muslim soldiers.

    In no country can any army afford to see its ranks having representation of minorities incosistent with the proportions of minorities in a population. This itself is a threat, a more pronounced one though, whereby it can lead to long term discontentment. Furthermore during conflicts, an army will need to be able to replace its ranks with men in its population if it looses too many soldiers at the battlefront. In conditions created above, where can any army find replacements amongst discontented minorities.

    Therefore it is wiser to ward off the greater threat of unsustainability of army due to insufficient representation of minorities by having sufficient representation, than to over worry about the lesser threat, which is also of a far lesser probability, of seeing the minority soldiers break ranks.

  3. Aiya said

    hey, I’m a Singaporean Chinese and I’ll be honest about this: If Singapore were to go to war, I will hold my M16 rifle and fight along a Malay soldier, then fighting with an imported fucking trash Chinese (like the one you see hacking into RJC computer and trying to act pathetic).

    All along, PAP has a deep mistrust for Singaporeans, not only Malays. So the question is why should I do anything for these rich elitist idle **** PAP ministers?

    *Comments edited for vulgarity

  4. wah said

    Why Malays are so keen to join army?

    Many Chinese would gladly change places with you all to join the police and civil defense.

  5. wah said

    to aiya,

    Please la… The ppl u mention dun even need to fight. They will be the 1st to leave bro.

    Scholarship for FTs, NS for Singaporeans. You don’t know meh!

  6. Agagooga said

    Actually many people become more racist after Slavery.

    “There has been discrimination both for and against Malays during Singapore’s history… The Malays were positively favoured as employees bythe British, particularly in the uniformed services (army, police, fire) and in some related clerical, transport, and personal services. In 1957, almost 20 per cent of Malay working men were employed in the uniformed services… Malay youth were not called up for National Service during the 1970s, and some were still not being called up in 1984. Those who were called up claimed to be placed only in menial capacities, and always excluded from the airforce, commando, and tank units which are the key units in Singapore’s defence system.

    There was an unfortunate side effect to the non-recruitment of Malays into National Service. Employers in Singapore are generally unwilling to recruit or train young male workers who have not completed National Service or obtained exemption papers as these youths can be called up at any time. Since Malays were not officially exempted from National Service, Malay youths were uable to obtain apprenticeships or regular jobs, and many were forced into an extended limbo period of about ten years from ages 14 to 24… [this] was in part responsible for the high percentage of Malay youths who became involved in heroin abuse during the late 1970s.”

    — Malays in Singapore: Culture, Economy, and Ideology / Tania Li

  7. To show commitment, a non-discrimination policy should be enforced in the SAF just like in the US. In 1948, President Truman signed the Executive Order 9981 which started the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services. The journey will not be smooth and easy but rather it will be a slow process in changing the mindset of yesteryears. Until then, tokenism is still prevalent.

  8. I totally agree with Aiya.

  9. Although I agree that in principle, all being equal, the army/navy/airforce should have the same stupid ratio as they put into the GRCs and HDB flats. I never understood why the army cook house could not just have a single halal meal, instead of halal and non-halal… most of the time the halal food looks and taste better. Strangely enough during my army times, one of the halal ration contains glutinous rice with chicken, which was my favorite, which my malay mates really hated (its not their normal food to eat!). Needless to say, I got lots of delicious glutinous donated from my good friends during field camp… 🙂

    Having said that, the problem, I suspect seems to be a problem of perception. One of the perception is the clan mentality of the malay community with their religion, so much so that they may identify with their religion more readily then with their own country. So if Indonesia or Malaysia calls for a jihad against Singapore, there is a perception that the malay folks may side with their religion instead.

    The relative silence from the malay community during 911 and many many other Islamic related killings and bombing, did not help non-muslim ease their fear about how the malay community felt about the issue. In fact, the silence seems to reinforce the idea that the malay community somewhat supported those kind of actions.

    This was not helped by having malay folks wearing bin laden or sadam hussain shirts during those times. It did not give others any assurance that when it comes to religion that the malay community could be rational about it and to defense what is right, rather than what is “godly”.

    Neither was it help by the fact that there is a perception that most malay folks will see themselves as Muslim first rather than Singaporean first.

    Its unfortunately, but I feel that the malay community may have to do more to show that when it comes to religion versus the country or other races (as we know most malays are muslim), the malay community will not choose religion blindly, but reason, logic and fairness.

  10. Being anti-America was never a crime, as long as you can show you are committed to your own nation.

  11. jeffrey said


    Why do the Malays have to show that

    when it comes to religion versus the country or other races (as we know most malays are muslim), the malay community will not choose religion blindly, but reason, logic and fairness

    if the other races and religions don’t have to? And pray tell, just how are they expected to show such things? They (and everyone else) are being asked to shed blood Singapore if and when the time comes. Don’t you think it’s hypocritical to ask so much of them, and yet not trust them?

    My point is, these two things aren’t exclusive. My NS mates are Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian. And every one of them won’t die for their country.

    But they bloody well will make the other f***** die for his. And I’m proud to fight alongside these guys. There’s no reason for anyone to ask anyone else to prove anything.

    *Comments edited by moderator for vulgarity.

  12. Someone said

    If it’s possible, no NS at all, please.

  13. Agagooga said

    Saltwetfish: Why not give everyone vegetarian food, then? Or even vegan food? Then SAF catering would be truly inclusive, and everyone would be able to eat together.

    I wonder how Chinese are treated in the Malaysian Armed Forces. That would be an interesting comparison.

  14. Masindi said

    The signing bonus of $20k for SAF only applies to non-Malays or not?

  15. contrarian said


    this an age old excuse which doesnt hold water.. to those who say…er singapore malays might not fight their malay brethren in malaysia or indon or wherever.. the question is..arent there chinese in these armies or living in these countries, is there a chance the singapore chinese or indian pilot hesitate to bomb malaysia or indon since his brethren are also living there?

    ok lets say there is not one single chinese or indian bloke in these countries… well china and india have a blue water fleet…distance is not much of an issue in modern airfare. so the local non-malay will say sorry cannot fight la… my people are coming..i dont want to fight them.

    ok… lets say fine.. singapore malays are not trusted..plain and simple..

    so what shld the malay do? I say screw it.. if I were part of the malay community… I wld see it as how the govt treats the malay community and not support this govt and its apologists for a clearly racist and segregationist policy..I dont get how come the malay community and its leaders are so sanguine abt this policy.

    and besides I reckon they shld concentrate on building themselves up as a community economically, socially and religiously rather than bother serving in the army of a govt which distrusts them.

    wake up guys and feel lucky that you dont have to charge up some stupid hill during ns or something… use that time to work to better urselves.

  16. little_gecko said

    1) Tis a known fact that during the 9-11 incident, the ground feeling amongst the malays is that the US deserved it. This is very different from the rest of the Singaporean races who were shocked that such acts could be committed against humanity. The newspaper may report on such and such a malay leader coming up to speak against the act but if you were to ask any malays in their private capacity, it was a totally different scenario. Another truth is that the malay leaders were not amongst the first to speak out against the acts, they were in fact told to do so to show their stance. And whenever malaysia flings mud at s’pore accusing us of ill-treating the malays, seldom do i read in the papers of the local malay community speaking up against such accusations or interference by malaysia.

    2)….. whether S’porean chinese/indian would ever attack their counterparts in M’sia or Indon. Firstly, their representation would be negligible and secondly, there has never been an issue with these 2 races. What goes thru a malay’s mind in times of war, nobody really knows but the fear of them landing a $150m F-16 onto malaysian soil waving a white flag and switching allegiance seemed quite plausible (judging from pt 1). Pardon me, but I’m just echoing what the top echelons would have liked to tell you so too.

    3) Frankly, if the malays were that keen on defending the nation, I really dun see anything wrong with them doing so in the police force or civil defence. That is part of defending the country too, what’s so bad about dat? I believe this discontent stemmed not so much from their genuine desire to want to defend the country as much as their feeling of not being treated as equals, isn’t it?

    *Comments edited by moderator.

  17. Clarence said

    Seriously speaking, no one in Singapore has proven anything. Have the Chinese/Indians proven that they’re willing to die for singapore? I don’t think so. (I’m Chinese , FYI.)

    Now let me tell u for a fact, NO WAY i’m going to die for any country, man. My life is more important than that, and I’ll tell you that most of the other 4.5 million people would think that way. We should all know that Singapore is too small to be defended. Then again, who’s going to attack us will probably need a damned good reason cos there’s obviously no natural resources here (even Sentosa is at least 25% “fake” aka reclaimed) and with all the citizens migrating/injured/dead, you’re going to be left with a piece of wasteland to dump your rubbish on.

    Sorry to say, this is a capitalist country and all people think of is how to make money. And make MORE money. Dying for your country? I propose complaining to the US or UN instead. Lalala.

  18. contrarian said

    I am not a malay..but we often hear this excuse from the politicos

    1) that malays have to prove that they can be trusted

    er ok..

    but what is there to say that non-malay singaporeans can be trusted it so difficult for the typical non-malay tankee or pilot to NOT defend singapore – absolutely.

    this is all an excuse to treat malays in a wonky way..

    but the real sad part is that malay leaders or representatives do not seem to make nary a word of observation let alone a questioning speech about it.

  19. Clarence,

    You need to read up more on how Singapore’s relevance to the world is currently higher than any time in history. We are a node junction.

    Enough said.

  20. Christon said

    Wah speaks the truth.

    “Why Malays are so keen to join army?

    Many Chinese would gladly change places with you all to join the police and civil defense.”

  21. Robert HO said

    1. Also forgot to add that in addition to the minority Indians and Malays having no ethnic goods and services catering to their ethnic needs due to being spreading out too thinly to be serviced; plus having no minority families to resell their HDB flats to when they want to sell, thus leading to huge financial losses when they sell at forced firesale prices; the Indians and Malays are also DEPRIVED of cultural, sports, recreational and ethnic facilities because they are so few everywhere they are allowed to live. This ranges from say, Malay sports clubs for say, sepak takraw, to Malay ethnic dance and music clubs, to Indian say, cultural associations, etc, et, etc, — I don’t know the Indians and Malays well enough to detail all these deprivations.

    2. There is a far more insidious deprivation of such forced spreading out. THE MINORITY MALAYS AND INDIANS HAVE FAR FEWER OPPORTUNITIES FOR SOCIAL ENCOUNTERS, FROM BOY MEET GIRL SOCIAL ENCOUNTERS TO MAKING FRIENDS ACROSS AGE GROUPS AND SEX GENDERS. Again, this totally screws up the Indian and Malay lives and social intercourse, which no government has the right to deprive them of, except that in Singapore, LKY and company do pretty much what they like, on any whim, without objection or resistance or debate, so total is their control.

    To illustrate all this another way, suppose Malays and Indians are allowed to enclave. Then, in the Malay Kampung [modern 1, of course], there can be a central football pitch, so beloved of the Malay youths, which can be converted by tents into wedding reception and prayer areas, etc. Similarly, the Indians can have their worship temples as central architecture in their enclave, like the Malay central mosque in theirs.

    Thus, life could be much more rewarding and wonderful for the Indians and Malays in their enclaves because, then, they will be able to flock together and pray, play, socialise, entertain, etc, etc, with their own kind. ALL THESE ARE DENIED THEM BY A DESPOT WHO “DOES WHAT HE THINKS BEST, NEVER MIND WHAT THE PEOPLE THINK” — LKY. Imagine the richness of the social and physical architecture of such a Malay Village and an Indian Area. We are talking about a totally different lifestyle altogether. So different from the sterile lives they are now forced to live. Some of these ideas I had snailmailed LKY decades ago, when I was still pro-PAP [regretfully] but he was, as usual, too stupid to see their merits.

  22. Ghost said

    The article brings me back memories. At that point of time I was an idealist and believe in the country that I was born in. To defend it with my life.

    I applied for an air force technician prior before my poly. They have a sort of scholarship. You signed up with the armed forces and they pay for your poly education.

    A lot people told me don’t dream about it. I choose to believe in equality and fairness. Fundamentally I believe that I can be counted to die for the country.

    Of course my application was rejected. I went through my poly years and serve my NS. After BMT, they approached me to sign on in the army. I could proceed to OCS as a regular. The downside is that if I didn’t pass OCS, I’d just be a NCO. There is no guarantee. I declined.

    I was next posted to an elite unit. The one below Commandos. The training was brutal. I was fit so it didn’t really mattered. By the way, I can swim like a dolphin. We in fact beat the commandos and was the guard of honour for one of the NDP. During this time, they approach me again for a career with the army. This time round was for a surveillance unit. Even my officers have not heard of such a unit. I politely declined.

    All this time throughout my NS, we do not have issues of race at all. They only one that have it was the OC. It seemed he just don’t like Malays to be in command.

    I served my reservist for 13 years as a platoon sergeant. Again there was no issue of race. We got along. In fact I had a Chinese girlfriend and lots of Chinese friends. We go out clubbing together and it wasn’t a big deal.

    Overall I’d say that ordinary Singaporeans have only minor issues with race. When they get to know the person, most, if not all, of the prejudices gave way.

    The policy is not made at the ground level. Its higher up. The Malays that did make the grade was because of PR only. Not to denigrate their achievements, personally I know of a Malay pilot and a high ranking Malay Officer in the army and a Malay commando. I know a lot of capable Malays who could easily perform beyond expectation.

    The discrimination is done by the higher authorities. If you believe in the system of meritocracy then you must have been an Alice in Wonderland.

    The right question should be:

    Can the authorities trust the Malays to hold position of higher office that directly impacts the policies of Singapore?

    Instead of:
    Can the Malays be trusted to ………..?

    Just fill in the blanks.

    Remember what I said in the beginning? Now its a complete turn around. I am actively taking steps to migrate and don’t count on me to defend this piece of rock. I am not a quitter, I am a survivor.

    Good luck and have a nice day.

  23. Jeffrey said

    u make good and valid points, ghost. i agree, can the authorities trust the Malays?

    by not putting them in positions of influence, and putting a few in place (i don’t have to name the prominent ones) perhaps just for show, what good is it? will it propel increasingly ill sentiments among the malay community at the lack of opportunity to serve the country in the propensities they wish to? or will they generally just “relac one corner” and accept what is given?

    i don’t know for sure, but i think as one who is born and bred in Singapore, whatever your race, you should be allowed to serve in whatever way you want and can.

    btw, just to clear things up, i don’t see the police force or SCDF any LESS important than what i used to do in the army (armour) etc. all part of total defence, everyone plays a role. if u want combat, you can always sign up for ADF (regular) 😉

  24. Ghost said

    We sometimes believe that just because we are born and bred In Singapore, we should be allowed to serve in whatever way we want and can’t.

    I have given up on the that ideal. At least across the causeway, the Malays practiced Bumiputra policies. They are upfront on that. Here we have the so called “Meritocracy” system but in actual fact it favours a certain group of Chinese.

    Read this article and you will realise the officially sanctioned systematic exclusion of Malays.

    Remember when LKY cried when Malaysia annex Singapore? I believe its not because of Singapore but because he missed the change to be the PM of Malaysia.

    From then on, everything in the state of Singapore was and still is geared to exclude the Malays. Some sort of revenge.

    I have stopped believing in whatever the Singapore government says.

    Just look around you. Even channel 5 an English channel have adverts in Mandarin. Step into SBS buses and you have TV mobile blaring in Mandarin.

    A recent Malay was actually the second in command in a GLC. Then the head who happened to be the son of a prominent person resigned. Logic would dictate that he should be leading the GLC. For whatever reasons he is now an MP and have resigned from the GLC. Thus a Malay cannot hold a high position in a GLC.

    And if you think being an MP is a step forward., then think again. You are effectively bought and if you served two terms you have income for the rest of your life provided you keep your mouth shut.

    Beautiful system. Its an exercise in subtlety and control.

    That’s what I personally feel. What I am saying represents my own view. I am here not to encourage anything nor discouraged anything. The point is you read and understand and draw your own conclusion.

    In any country its the same. The rulers will always want to rule forever and with their own kind of people.

    If I am a Chinese and in the ruling party then my actions are right.

  25. aygee said

    if you tell me upfront you dont trust me, and yet u expect to fight for you, how do u expect me to give my life to you?

    having said that, to the malays who have doubts where they stand in times of conflict – i have only one response. Do you think an opposing force will only pick out the chinese and indians in our army and not shoot a malay soldier?

    if a malay soldier has doubts, then i say its a failure of national education and military indoctrination. leaving them out is a “easy way out”.

    in the end, we’re a civilian force. the challenge for the SAF is to motivate a civilian army to fight in times of conflict. They shouldnt be hung up about giving malays senior appointments and positions in “sensitive” arms of the army. If a malay is prepared to join the army as a regular, i bet he’s as ready to fight as any other warrior. The SAF should give him every opportunity to be his best – rather than be suspicious.

  26. Agagooga said

    Ghost: Would you rather be a non-Bumi in Malaysia or a Malay here, then?

  27. Ghost said

    To Agagooga.

    Neither. I’d rather be a human being and not be classified to be belonging to a race or creed.

    Lets’ recap the pledge of Singapore:

    “We, the citizens of Singapore,
    pledge ourselves as one united people,
    regardless of race, language or religion,
    to build a democratic society
    based on justice and equality
    so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
    progress for our nation.”

    regardless of race, language or religion.

    We failed in that one sentence alone. Look around, when you apply for a job, its bilingual, it means English and Chinese, not English and Malay or Tamil or whatever.

    I have friends who applied for a job. On finding out that she is a Malay, she was told they needed someone who can speak Mandarin. Not a problem, my friend told them; I’ve studied Mandarin and can speak fluently. And she spoke in Mandarin to the person.

    Guess what? The person simply said we are looking for a Chinese.

  28. Agagooga said

    Ghost: Yes, but that was not the point. You praised Malaysia as being upfront about their discrimination, but I’m sure you’ll agree that in this case hypocrisy is a lesser crime. And since creeds are chosen to a large extent by you yourself, why reject that classification? We are all human beings, but at the same time we inhabit many categories. Seeing us solely as members of one or even a few particular categories is unhelpful, but so too should we beware of total categorical nihilism; since cognition is categorisation and association, it is incoherent to speak of just being a human being.

    And we fail on much of the pledge. Though one could ask if the Pledge is in itself a worthy articulation of intent in the first place.

  29. Ghost said

    You are right, Agagooga.

    In any system, there are obvious shortcomings as well as advantages. Yes it is incoherent to speak of oneself as just being a human being.

    On the other hand, just to judge a person because she belongs to a social creed, or race is an over simplification. We are complex. We do belong to many categories. We could be a father, son, nephew, uncle, cousin, brother-law and even grandfather all roll into one.

    What I love to see is this :

    The post that we are applying for is based on our level of expertise and not by our creed.

    When we in school we recite the pledge daily, do we take it to heart daily? Or merely it is a ritual to be done as quickly as possible. Or merely the pledge is an attempt to gloss over the obvious fact.

    We can go on and on about this. Counter and counter arguments. In the end what purpose does it serve?

    I have decided to cut away from this. Yes I know, the next country that I will settle will have the same issues more or less. Every system is imperfect simply because it is design by humans.

    We simply list the pros and cons and from it we decide. Even then its not 100% guaranteed that its satisfactory.

    Its just tiring to live here.

  30. isurvived said

    Just remember the incident that happened in taiwan regarding the plane crash in the camp. Malay, chinese and indians all suffered. We are all humans and we all could have died. Don’t be so racist and stir up this shit over here.

  31. Agagooga said

    Pointing out racism is racist? Gee.

  32. isurvived said

    My point was simple, let’s just do our part and serve in the ways the upper people see fit. When we bleed, our blood is red. Anyone who goes through ns is just another brother. There was no need to waste our time here pointing fingers and defending our beliefs. Of course i’m not asking us to roll over and act dead whenever we have views like that, but rather let’s start on the ground level and do things like visitng our friends of various other races during their festive holidays, going out for activities or movies or such together. Lets just be honest here, have u been even doing this small and simple acts?

  33. aniza said

    interesting piece of article and lots of comments too…actually simply why want to create so much of a stir upon this issue that has been well circling and going around for years…till this spill over across the causeway and causes lots of misundestand and misconception….am a lady and by plain yes not eligible for NS but my point is every country has the right to exercise it’s authority to decide whether in the field of whatever it is for national interest…and not for specific individual…a maly myself so far singapore has been meritocratic in all fields i can say cos of our ability to stive for our best…we,malays in singapore as a minority and for the govt to exercise us as the indigneous ppl and to protect us…is a blessing….no need to look far…just look at malaysia why any malays or whoever out there ever question how come so few of minorities in their defence force??and what happen to so called the bumis of malaysia mainly the malays??simply forget where they stand instead for country or for race that they are pursuing and end up neglecting minorities of their own citizens…that’s serious…and to all malays concentrate in improving ourselves…that’s where ppl will respect us as a community not complain and wondering about jst a policy that now i think being twist and turn…

  34. SRK said

    Maybe they should add an extra requirement that only Mandarin Speakers can sign on for the SAF since Malays and Indians are not required.

  35. saintmoron said

    ‘hou nan bu tang ping, hou tie bu ta ting’, okay; I am unable to be precise but I will try. My elementary translation of that pinyin(Chinese) phrase would be: ‘Good(capable) males do no soldiering(blind order takers) just like good metals are never meant to be nails(simple purpose- this my personal interpretation)

    Anyone feels sour been slighted in National Service in Singapore should take the exclusion a blessing. As for racial/religious biases and prejudices, everyone of us are just as guilty as each other, don’t believe? Seek a little deeeper.

  36. piratepsyko said

    Too true that. I’m Eurasian. Irish supposedly. I was born here, bred here, plan to die here. And I would die for Singapore, cos its my home. Not for the government mind you, but for the country, for this soil, for the people. I don’t care what color they are, the could be blue and from the moon, but anyone born here, I generally would put my life on the line for, in a war time scenario of course. Mat, Beng, Anjadi, Elitist, when the bullets fly, who cares right?

    Sadly, people in the up and up care. Its an old policy that one is forced to admit makes sense back in the old days when we were newly split from Malaysia, had the race riots and what not. There was a lot looming over us, and in some ways it was easier to trust the Indians and Singapore Chinese of that time then the Malays. And thats even with the problems of the communist parties.

    But now though, its an archaic hangover that is slavishly adhered too, like so many rulings made in the past generally. Something is come up with that fits the situation at the time, but that in the present time is the wrong solution. But instead of discussing policy, people follow it. Why? Because if it exists, it must exist for a reason, and as such we should follow it.

    There is no reason to exclude Malays based on race. To fear that Malays would join Malaysia or Indonesia against Singapore is silly. There are plenty of Chinese people here with familial ties to both countries, who are in the higher ranks. Why is it that we don’t fear such people turning on us either? I say this, EXCLUDING a people for any reason is more likely to cause them to turn. I would rather include Malays as a whole in every part of the Army, and risk betrayal by a few, then exclude them as a whole and experience resentment en masse and possible mass rebellion/sedition in a war situation.

    And Wah, you don’t get it. The Chinese have equal opportunities in the Police and Civil Defence with Malays. But not vice versa. Its not about keenness to join the army, but the desire to be able to be equal there, to know that you can join in your country’s military defence and not have to worry about how far you can go because of your race, or whether you be excluded from something vital because of it. I remember one op in my camp, we were supposed to have a CQ in the communications tent to help coordinate supply transfers. One of the days, it was the Malay CQs turn, and he was sent back to the company line, because he was a Malay. To give the officer who sent him back credit, at least she was frank with what was going on. But it demoralised him to no end. It demoralised me, to see such blatant prejudice being enforced. And not because she wanted too, but because it was SOP (standard operating procedures). Oh, and while he’s Malay, he’s no fan of either Malaysia or Indonesia.

    This is not about being all “si peh on” about joining army. This is about being recognised as part of your country, about being welcomed in the defense of it. Not to say the civil defense branches aren’t important, but being accepted as part of any countries martial defense invokes a sense of belonging that is alot stronger and more permanent.

    Aniza, a lady is elegible for the Army, even if she is exempt from NS. One of my senior specs was a female CQ. Btw, to make it clear, I’m Logistics. Pretty much were all the Malays seem to wind up, heh. As much as the Malay community has to improve itself (Mats, essentially, heh), how can we expect them to feel the desire to improve themselves when pretty much the main feeling of that segment of society is, it’s all against us, so why bother? True, its a defeatist attitude, and they should shake it. But only half the blame would lie with those who take it, because really, everywhere you look, its really Chinese oriented. I’ve written things about how the media industry is very Chinese oriented on my blog, and I stand by it. Our one English channel has a ton of mandarin ads, but I don’t recall seeing any Malay or Indian ones. And most times, you see an English ad for something, Singtel or Starhub for instance, pretty much everyone is Chinese, with a token member of either race in the whole ad. Under such conditions, when the ethnic group seems to be forcibly excluded from the rest of the country, can we blame them totally for feeling the way the feel? Not to say that most Malays are a problem, or lazy, or don’t do anything to better themselves. Far from it. But even the really educated ones, the ones in Uni, the ones working as hard as anyone else out there, feel this segregation, this lack of empathy with their homeland. And isn’t that scary? They are the indigenous people of this land, are we going to wind up being a smaller scale version of America and Australia, where some day we may have to do public apologies to the indigenous people for whatever? I hope not. And if policies and mindsets were to change to forget race, and include all, I think not.

    We’re Singaporeans. And while every individual does look at racial stereotypes, even myself now and then, we’re Singaporean. A byword globally for multi-culturalism and racial harmony. Lets make it mean the same thing in the place where Singaporeans come from. Our home.

  37. galadriel said

    I’m a Malaysian and I can’t help but draw parallels between the Sing situation n our own.
    Here, there are minimal enrolment of Chinese, Indians and other minorities in the Armed Forces as well as Police force.

    At the end of the day, there is serious doubt in the govt as to our loyalty as Malaysians. The Chinese-majority Singapore does a reverse version. halal food provision n all that is crap.
    There is a multiracial group of soldiers who form the Sarawak-based Ranger regiment. They work fine, and get along fine.

    The racists among us still haven’t gone. It is institutionalised in both countries. unfortunately. I was told by a commando fren of mine that Malay-Muslim hatred n distrust is ingrained in the Sing Army.

    This is the legacy of race politics, both sides of the Causeway.

    The difference is, recently, we Malaysians almost voted out the entire Malay supremacist govt in favour of non-racial representation in Parliament.

    When is your turn, my southern friends?

  38. I am a Chinese company-grade officer in multi-racial Royal Ranger Regiment of Msian Army. From what I see, the lack of non-Malays in Msian Armed Forces, Police, Coast Guard, Fire Dept etc is not really because policy or something. Its just the our social system that put wealth on top. Go to school, get good grades, further your study and get a job with the nice pay without endangering yourself. Like Goh Keng Swee once said “The Spartan approach to life does not come about naturally in a community that lives by buying and selling.” That is one of the reason for NS in Sg, isn’t it? I understand why Sg needs NS but for Msia, it is better for MAF to remain as volunteer/profesional armed forces. After all, I believe on everyone’s right to choose their career.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: