SINGAPORE - Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap of the Workers' Party yesterday called for the formation of a committee to address concerns of Malay-Muslims over how their loyalty to the nation is viewed.
But in a swift rebuttal, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower Hawazi Daipi deemed his suggestion unnecessary as this was an issue that could be overcome by strengthening inter-racial ties.
The exchange began with Mr Faisal saying that more needed to be done to "address and find solutions" to community concerns highlighted in a recent report. He quoted the findings of the Suara Musyawarah committee, which said Malay-Muslim participants felt left out in certain policies and practices which "question the loyalty of Malays to the country".
The committee was formed in 2012 to gather feedback on the thoughts, concerns and aspirations of Malay-Muslims. Its report highlighted personal accounts of employers expressing a preference for non-Malay workers and surfaced concerns over exclusion from certain parts of the Singapore Armed Forces.
Mr Faisal acknowledged that progress has been made in terms of opportunities afforded to Malay-Muslims in education and national service, but said the committee's formation could offer a "quick solution" to achieving a "more inclusive and open Singapore society".
Responding to his speech, Mr Hawazi and Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) later asked Mr Faisal if the latter had ever felt that his loyalty to the country was questioned, and what his own views on the issue were.
"I'm concerned (that) if we highlight the differences, we will be widening (them) not only among one community but all communities," said Mr Hawazi, adding that schools and community activities are means to forge greater social cohesion.
In response, Mr Faisal stressed that the issue of loyalty among Malays was surfaced by the Suara Musyawarah report, and not him.
Mr Hawazi then suggested that Mr Faisal had cherry-picked portions of the report, failing to highlight, for example, that Malay-Muslim participants also said they were "very committed" to Singapore on issues that include defence and security.
Maintaining that he was reflecting concerns on the ground, Mr Faisal said: "I have said in my view that I am aware and agree there is progress made, but because there are still many people who say that this issue is present, I, as a voice of the people, would like to voice it out."
This article was first published on May 27, 2014.
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