SINGAPORE - High-ranking Malay military men who had been asked by their community to be profiled for their achievements have turned down the requests as they are loathe to draw attention to their race.
This is because they have been promoted through their accomplishments and capabilities.
And as commanders, they said they lead all men, regardless of race, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in Parliament yesterday during the debate on the President's Address.
Recounting his interactions with these senior commanders, Dr Ng said Malay servicemen have made great strides in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), without publicity or fanfare.
Dr Ng weighed in on the discussion on a perceived bias against Malays in the SAF, which has been raised by MPs like Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC).
He assured the House that soldiers' deployment and promotions are based on merit, capability, aptitude and commitment, regardless of race or religion.
Dr Ng noted that there are now Malays in all services, whether as Air Force pilots, commandos, combat engineers, artillery men in the Army, and in the Navy.
"The SAF has been doing this quietly and progressively without fanfare, applying the principles of merit and aptitude, which means that every Malay soldier who is posted to any vocation or unit, got there on his own merit.
"To take any action based on race, even if it is an affirmative action, puts us onto the path of tokenism," added Dr Ng.
Defence analyst Ho Shu Huang said it is difficult to argue that Malays are discriminated against, given their high level of integration.
But he noted that there is still a perception that Malays are excluded from sensitive military units. "These perceptions have to be addressed directly for the matter of discrimination to be resolved once and for all," he said.
This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.