Sunday, 7 September 2014

Racial Harmony in Singapore (9 Parts)

Michael Heng appeared on HappyTV “Talkabout” with other eminent Speakers for a no-holds barred discussion on racial harmony in Singapore

Tune in on YouTube;
Part 3 -
Part 4 -
Part 5 -
Part 6 -
Part 7 -
Part 8 -
Part 9 -

Singapore has made great strides in harmonising relations between the various ethnic groups following independence.  Since the race riots of the 1960s there have been no racial flare-ups and during the post 9/11 period when inter-race confidence was seriously tested, Singapore stuck together. Last year’s One.peopleSG survey, the most significant report ever conducted on race and religious harmony, concluded that all Singaporeans, of all races, were positive about cultural diversity in Singapore.  It stated that there was an absence of minority discrimination in using public services, absence of inter-racial and religious tension and an absence of minority discrimination in the workplace.
But are things as rosy as they seem? Scratch beneath the surface and perhaps things aren’t quite as harmonious. About 80 per cent of the respondents agreed that when they know a person’s race, they have a “good idea” of what some of their behaviours and views are like. These prejudicial opinions  suggest racial stereotyping.   The study also revealed that only 23.3 per cent of Chinese said they have close Malay friends. Furthermore an  “unacceptable” proportion of respondents do not mix with other races. In fact, about 16 per cent said they would not try to get to know people of other races and religions even if they were given the opportunity. A further 1 out of 4 Singaporeans said they had experienced racial discrimination when at work, applying for a job or when being considered for a job promotion. This has led some people to argue that the foundation for racial and religious harmony was not as strong as one might have hoped.
Leading politicians have warned that race relations is still ‘work in progress’ and Singaporeans had not reached a point where they were colour blind and religion was completely irrelevant. Lee Kuan Yew cautioned the Singaporean youth of today that racial harmony was not something that could be placed on “auto-pilot”, reminding them that the social network connecting the different racial communities was a fragile web that could easily be destroyed. Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam believed that fault lines still exist but ‘how widespread was anybody’s guess’.
So what needs to be done? A UN report suggests that Singapore adopts a more open approach in discussing the challenges of racial discrimination in Singapore. It also said that the inclusion of race on identity cards accentuated racial divisions. So would more open debate and the removal of race make a big difference? Or are things as good as they are going to get – after all birds of a feather always flock together.

You can also visit HappyTV for the Transcripts:


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