The number of Malays in leadership positions in the public and private sectors have increased over the last 50 years, said Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC).
But views of job discrimination are still apparent in the Malay-Muslim community, she acknowledged in Parliament. "Negative perceptions of Malays having fewer opportunities for promotion or being less likely to be given leadership positions still exist," she said.
Concerns of Malay-Muslims' loyalty to Singapore surfaced in the House again yesterday, as three MPs spoke on the perceived discrimination. Workers' Party MP Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap (Aljunied GRC) had raised the issue on Monday, reflecting points in the Suara Musyawarah report released last year. He had called for a committee to be formed to address these concerns.
While she disagreed with Mr Faisal's recommendation, Dr Intan urged for "concrete steps" to be taken to correct negative perceptions. She highlighted that many Malays had achieved success through sheer hard work and leveraging on opportunities afforded in Singapore's meritocratic system.
She suggested holding up examples of successful Malays in the public and private sectors as role models for the community.
"We must not diminish the importance of the hope and belief that opportunities to succeed are equal for all - regardless of race, background or financial capabilities," she said.
Also speaking on the issue yesterday, Workers' Party's Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) said policymakers should be reminded that the "fear of putting a Malay serviceman behind a machine gun are already over".
Now "more than ever", he said, race is not a factor in conscription.
Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) then sought a clarification on this point, asking if Mr Singh was saying that Malays were not deployed to handle machine guns.
Mr Zainal also asked him if he was aware that many Malays are today deployed in various parts of the armed forces, including in artillery and signal units. To this, Mr Singh cited his personal experience of serving as platoon commander of a combat engineering unit during national service, where he observed that there were no Malay servicemen in the rank and file.
He acknowledged that the situation had changed in recent years, but said there were concerns from the ground that there were still questions over the loyalty of the Malays to the nation.
This article was first published on May 29 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.