SINGAPORE: The CMIO (Chinese, Malay, Indian, Others) racial categorisation system that Singapore uses is an "imperfect" one, but “there is a functionality behind it”, said Minister of State for Communications and Information and for Education Janil Puthucheary.
Dr Puthucheary said this during a dialogue session held after a special screening of Regardless of Race, a soon-to-be-aired hour-long Channel NewsAsia documentary fronted by him, which tackles the issue of race in Singapore.
Dr Puthucheary, who is also the chairman of OnePeople.sg - a body which works to promote racial harmony - asked the audience to consider the implications of not having the CMIO system. “Any of our policy interventions where race is a factor would no longer be operationalisable,” he stated.
“It would mean our ethnic integration programme would be absent. We could not guarantee that there would be no racial ghettoes in Singapore. You would not be able to guarantee that all primary schools have a mixture of all races. You would not be able to have any attempt at preserving a mother tongue,” he said. “There are any number of policies where we are interventionalist in order to preserve harmony.”
In response to another question, Dr Puthucheary pointed out that Government policies can only go so far in “fixing” race issues. “We are a model of racial harmony and multiculturalism that the rest of the world looks to,” he said. “And yet, Singaporeans are not happy with our current situation.
“Government policies have brought us where we are today, but that’s because people have operationalised it and made it real,” he added. “Most of what (Regardless of Race) is about is internal values, prejudices and biases, and how that translates into how we live our lives. That’s not going to be fixed by policy decisions.
“What we really hope for is that this generates a series of conversations about people in society working to remove the internal values, prejudices and biases.”
Regardless Of Race premieres on Channel NewsAsia on Aug 15 at 8pm, as part of the CNA Signatures belt of innovative programmes.