Post-GE2011: Where are my real Malay-Muslim leaders?

A member of the infamous million-strong PAP Makcik Batallion. How can the opposition win them over? (Image credit)

So GE2011 wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I am not happy with the results. To be frank, I was hoping that Tin Pei Ling and the whole of PAP Marine Parade team to succumb under the pressure of NSP and Nicole Seah, but let’s focus on the Malay issues.

Did the bulk of Malay-Muslim voters still side with PAP? Let’s see.

A day after polling day, hey-Muslims-be-less-strict-lah LKY and his dutiful son LHL came out a day just to rub a bucketful of salt and sand into the gaping wound. The former insisting that his comments didn’t affect Malay votes (link), and the in latter’s exact words: “I believe that the Malay votes were with us in this general election. I think Yaacob (Ibrahim) would confirm that.” (link)

I take it their electoral analysts have really managed to narrow down the vote patterns based on the ballot boxes. So do the Malays really forgive that fast?

Then two days later I found myself having teh tarik with some friends, and naturally GE hogged the conversation.

“You know,” said a friend. “I think the reason the opposition failed to get more seats was because of their weakest link.”

“Weakest link? You mean Chiam See Tong?” said another who’s more concerned with emotional articulation than substance. Fair point though given he’s one of those first-time voter.

“No, not him. I mean, the Malays in the opposition lah,” the friend quipped.

True enough, I thought.

To be honest, I cannot even name more than two of the Malay opposition candidates correctly. And the one I can name correctly is because I know he looks very familiar – which I found out later he’s a friend’s acquaintance.

Most of us followed the frantic 9 days of campaigning. But can you recall a time where a Malay opposition candidate was singled out because of merit? Not once. Heck, even TPL garnered more publicity than any of the Malay opposition candidates. Granted for the wrong reason, but still, why is there no prominent Malay opposition candidate?

I know of so-called up-and-coming Malay professionals who claimed they were courted to join the PAP, invitied to one of those tea parties, and even interviewed. But none of them were even appraoched by the opposition parties. I know the opposition lack resources and funds, but they really gotta work the ground. And if they are really serious about getting Malay votes, the have got to find the right Malay candidates.

For me, I like the opposition not because of their Malay candidates, but because of their manifestos and policies. Really, it’s a world apart from the pro-corporatist PAP which doens’t sem care if the rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer. It’s like the freaking GDP is their holy grail, and if they get that, all other problems are magically solved.

But somehow, it seems to me that a bulk of the Malays are not able to process anything beyond the candidates personality or qualifications. Of course, the extra cash ala Grow and Share helps too, especially to those who are cash-strapped and regard the handout as a literallifesaver.

Yet this particular Malay demography do raise a pertinent point for the opposition parties to ponder; they don’t want some Amat, Mamat or Rahmat to represent them in parliament. Read again: these electorate don’t care about policies. They see themselves in a weak state, and they want someone highly qualified to be their voice in parliament because of that feel-good factor. I know how irrelevant a Malay PAP Member of Parliament is for the Malay-Muslim cause, but again it seems that to this particular demography, it doesn’t matter. So read this again: Choosing between some Malay diploma holder or obscure businessman or financial consultant, I really believe they will instead pick someone with a “Dr” behind their name. See their logic? Irrational as it is, you gotta whink like one to win their hearts.

And then comes the next issue, and here’s my personal grouse. The Malay-Muslim Singaporeans – in general – should better position themselves in politics in order to ensure that they stand a chance to actually shape the direction of Singapore. Look, I’m not saying we go about doing some covert ultra-right-wing nationalist underground clan, but the own community should make sure that they are represented in parliament with good, strong Malay-Muslim individuals.

Look at the other minority, the Indians. We have a whole lot to learn from them in politics. Be it in the PAP or opposition, they have really capable people represented there. Look at the likes of Pritam Singh, or Vincent WijeySingha, or even the Singaporean-celup Janil Puthucheary. It’s not hard to imagine one of them to be appointed as ministers. But do we have Malay candidates who shine like that? Where are our real Malay candidates? When will we ever have our own Rajaratnam or Dhanabalan?

It got to start from now. At least to look after our own interests, we should have good, solid, people throughout. We gotta stop thinking short-term and make sure that we are prepared when the next wave comes by the next general election. Maybe it will take another 2-3 terms to see the opposition breaking the two-thirds majority. And that means we have between 5-15 years to groom some solid Malay-Muslim politicians. One who is strongly rooted in the community, with excellent qualifications and experience, and most importantly born with titanium backbones. For own our sake.

And by we, I’m looking you, opposition parties.

PS: Even the semi-foul-mouthed Tuan Johari Awang is looking at these issues closely. He had a blast with his first piece, and has agreed to contribute more to this blog. So keep on a lookout for him in future postings, which will be categorized under “Johari Awang.”



One thought on “Post-GE2011: Where are my real Malay-Muslim leaders?

  1. I’m not sure my point is well made, but I had something to say (even though it’s been posted more than a month =.=”):

    “Look at the other minority, the Indians. We have a whole lot to learn from them in politics. Be it in the PAP or opposition, they have really capable people represented there. Look at the likes of Pritam Singh, or Vincent WijeySingha, or even the Singaporean-celup Janil Puthucheary. It’s not hard to imagine one of them to be appointed as ministers.”

    I don’t think it’s quite fair compare with the Indian political candidates you’ve picked. These candidates primarily communicate in English. The demographic they appeal to has always be and will always be wider than the minority they belong to, because parties understand that merely relying on being a community representative and speaking in English will not give them political gains when they field an Indian candidate. Therefore in order to gain any kind of foothold in the Chinese-majority electorate, Indian candidates are often boost good credentials and/or speak very well in English. These qualifications appeal to a rather ‘univeral’ demographic i.e. across all the electorate that is English speaking. They speak neither for a particular race nor religion nor both; in other words, they are like English-speaking Chinese candidates in another skin.

    However Malay political candidates are often expected to be community representatives as well. They have to communicate well in Malay, which seriously limits the portion of the electorate they can appeal to, especially in a Chinese-majority society that is attuned to themselves, by and large. Even if they do indeed do their speeches in English, tough luck speaking as powerfully as the candidates you have thus far mentioned because it’s not easy being effectively bilingual. Hence when selecting GRC candidates, parties often pick candidates who can speak to the community well/whom they feel are representative of the ground, and putting credentials on the sideline. As long as the Malay demographic is accounted for, well and good, because these candidates are not meant to appeal to the electorate at large. And because these candidates do not appeal to the electorate at large and because of their less impressive credentials and English language skills, they are not key policy makers or decision makers in their parties, the “good, strong Malay-Muslim individuals” that you refer to.

    In order for strong Malay candidates to appear in opposition parties and Parliament, I believe one has to be ambitious and aim beyond community. I’m not talking about the Malay candidates in PAP who have co-opted into LKY’s jaundiced (haha colour pun much?) and historically loaded vision of Singapore’s demographic and are just PAP mouthpieces. I’m also not saying that Malay political candidates should not concern themselves with our community predicaments. I feel that we, amongst the community and the electorate and the political parties, should not pigeonhole our Malay brothers and sisters into just speaking out for the community. Because as long as we do this, we will not be influential in parliament and in steering or “[shaping] the direction of Singapore” because we will appear to be interested in only our problems. And when we are able to have political candidates who are able to have ideas about Singapore at large, Singaporeans will stop thinking of the Malay community in terms of its problems or percieved insularity. I believe change in mindset is more important to inclusivity and cohesion than some douchebag’s idea of being less demanding of ourselves to our religion.

    What say you? Am I on the wrong track?

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