Singapore 'far from ready' to do away with race categorisation: Ong Ye Kung

Singapore 'far from ready' to do away with race categorisation: Ong Ye Kung

"Singapore as a country existed only 51 years. The Singaporean identity itself is rather quite empty. What fills up a Singaporean identity is the identity of various races and all the traditions and cultures that we bring forth and create this tapestry (with)," says Acting Education Minister Mr Ong.

ong ye kung file
File picture of Ong Ye Kung. (Photo: Justin Ong)

SINGAPORE: Singapore is not ready to do away with a model which categorises people into the four major racial groups, or do away with race categorisation in identity cards, said Acting Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung on Sunday (Sep 11).

Speaking at a post-National Day Rally dialogue with youth in his Sembawang constituency, Mr Ong said many Singaporeans, particularly those from the minorities, still want to be identified by their race. "We are far from ready to say 'Let's get rid of everything and just be Singaporean'," said Mr Ong, who was responding to a student's question on whether the Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others or CMIO model should be re-evaluated.

He added to reporters after the dialogue: "What I was trying to explain is - if we are building a Singapore identity, we must understand that Singaporean as an identity is nothing very much. Singapore as a country existed only 51 years. The Singaporean identity itself is rather quite empty. What fills up a Singaporean identity is the identity of various races and all the traditions and cultures that we bring forth and create this tapestry (with). That is the Singaporean identity we are building towards."

Fellow MP for Sembawang GRC Vikram Nair also weighed in on the issue, saying the CMIO model is not meant to emphasise race and religion, but to ensure that these are not forgotten.

"It’s very easy if you disregard race and religion. You have, say, a general election, no racial classification and so on, but what you may end up having is a Parliament where there are no minorities represented," said Mr Nair.

He added that the classification ensures Singaporeans are "always conscious of each other and reach out to one another". When it is not recognised, I think we’ll probably have more fundamental problems later on," he said. "Our integration is sometimes against human nature. It makes you a bit uncomfortable at first. But that is what I think brings everyone together ultimately."

One participant asked whether the Government could be more proactive instead of reactive in dealing with problems - such as infrastructure issues. In response, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who is also an MP for Sembawang GRC, said long-term policy planning is not easy, as it has to take into account Singapore's changing economy and population.

But when it comes to planning, Mr Khaw stressed that a key point is to know where Singapore is heading. "And what is the direction? The direction is a better future for all of you; the future of young Singaporeans. And in fact, we look much further, we are talking about the future of your children," said Mr Khaw.

Mr Khaw also said it is important to be confident of Singapore's approach on policies, even if these might be different from those of other countries.

Source: CNA/jq

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