It is nauseating and irksome to read Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's occasional diatribes against Singapore Malays. The latest was reported in Berita Harian on Jan 8. He said that if the Malays in Malaysia were not united, their destiny would be like the Malays in Singapore. He further commented that if Malay unity in Malaysia is not maintained, they would be left behind and suppressed, as the Malays in Singapore have been.
Such unfounded statements reveal two things. First, Dr Mahathir has lost touch with the realities in Singapore. Second, he is still looking at Singapore Malays through an outdated prism, seeing them as they were at the time of Separation.
The progress Malay Singaporeans have made since then was attested to by the late Samad Ismail, a highly respected Malaysian journalist and intellectual. He said Singapore Malays have made remarkable progress. He personally had witnessed this on his visits to Singapore to see his relatives. They had climbed the social ladder and secured respectable social positions for themselves. Indeed, there is a growing number of Malays in Singapore who have made the grade through their own efforts and not through any public assistance.
Malays on both sides of the Causeway belong to the same race. However, they have had different historical experiences. Let us briefly examine the differences:
First, different political philosophies: Singapore has been governed by a multiracial party since independence. The party seeks the best available talents from all races - and they serve all Singaporeans, regardless of race, language or religion. In Malaysia, the ruling coalition is dominated by a Malay-based party. The coalition government balances the interests of its different component parties, most of which are tied to particular races.
Second, different educational systems: Singapore has a single national education system, with English as a medium of instruction. The mother tongue languages are compulsory for students of different ethnic origins. This bilingual system of education has proven successful.
In Malaysia, the education system has gone through many dramatic changes. The experiments of teaching mathematics in Malay and then in English and now back to Malay has caused much disruption. There are racially based quotas in the admission of students to tertiary institutions. This has resulted in many non-Malay students furthering their education abroad - and remaining there.
Third, different social environments: The overwhelming majority of Singaporeans live in housing estates with people of other races besides their own. This encourages social integration. The daily interaction of the different races in housing estates and at places of work has reduced feelings of racial exclusiveness among them.
In Malaysia, the social environment is such that the sense of racial exclusiveness is evident in daily life. There are many racial enclaves within cities. The rural areas are predominantly Malay. The 1Malaysia slogan is aimed at breaking this social separateness. By contrast, 'One Singapore' is not a slogan - it is a reality.
Malay Singaporeans are different from Malay Malaysians because each is the product of different policies. For Dr Mahathir to assert that Singapore Malays have been left behind, marginalised and suppressed reflects his ignorance of the social transformations happening in Singapore. One can detect a false sense of superiority in him every time he indulges in his bashing of Malay Singaporeans. He needs to be reminded that the rise of the Malay Malaysians is due more to 'Malayocracy' rather than meritocracy.
For Dr Mahathir to indulge in making sniping remarks about Malay Singaporeans is unethical. Self-introspection - an examination of the real position of Malay Malaysians - would have been more therapeutic.