SINGAPORE - Calling for a rethink, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim on Friday urged his people to ponder on the kind of society they want Singapore to be in the next 50 years and their role in shaping its future.
While meritocracy and multiracialism must continue to underpin Singapore society, they need to take into account an increasingly diverse society and the dangers of elitism, he said at a Hari Raya Aidilfitri dinner gathering.
His comments come amid warnings from government leaders against elitism creeping into Singapore's system of meritocracy.
In a speech peppered with questions that reflected his concern about emerging attitudes, he said calls to strengthen the distinction between Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans worry him.
"If pushed too far, such calls can potentially impoverish the idea of citizenship by commoditising the concept," said Dr Yaacob, who is also the Minister for Communications and Information.
He asked: "Do incentives and benefits define who we are...? Do we want a future Singapore where relationships are merely transactional? Or should we have a society based on mutual respect and help regardless of one's background?"
His view was that benefits of citizenship, important as they are, do not define Singaporeans and are "not the core of who we are".
He also wondered how society could ensure excellence and compassion, a reference to a recent call by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong for a compassionate meritocracy, with those who do well giving back to society.