S'pore envoy raps M'sian newspaper for 'baseless' allegations against EP scheme, meritocracy

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KUALA LUMPUR  — Singapore’s High Commissioner to Malaysia has slammed an editorial by the Utusan Malaysia newspaper on the changes to the Republic’s Elected Presidency scheme, which carried “several baseless and mischievous allegations”.

These include the claim that in Singapore, “meritocracy was always being used as an excuse to discriminate against Malays”, “meritocracy was also open to manipulation”, and that “Malays became weaker and marginalised from the corridors of power”, Mr Vanu Gopala Menon wrote in a letter to the Malaysian newspaper which was put up on Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

Adding that he wished to “set the record straight”, Mr Menon said: “Singapore’s meritocratic system has never been ‘manipulated’ or ‘used as an excuse to discriminate’ against Singapore’s Malay community, or any other community.” 

The editorial in question, President Melayu ke-2 (2nd Malay President), looked at the upcoming presidential election in Singapore. It was written by Awang Selamat, the collective pseudonym of the newspaper’s editors, and published in its latest Sunday edition, Mingguan Malaysia.

Among other things, the editorial said that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had started to take steps to pave the way for a Malay leader to assume the Elected Presidency. While lauding the move, it also noted that some quarters in Singapore had opposed the move to reserve the election for Malay candidates since they would prefer a President to be elected based on merit. The writer then offered his views of meritocracy in Singapore.

In his letter, Mr Menon said: “Meritocracy is a key pillar of Singapore’s system of governance. Our citizens have access to equal opportunities, regardless of race, language, or religion, and our policies are tailored to that end. Singapore’s Malay community has made significant social and economic progress over the past five decades, not because of privileges, but because of the community’s efforts in a fair and just society. Malay students have also excelled and topped national examinations.”

“We strictly prohibit our people, including the media, from using the issues of race, language, and religion to divide our society,” he added.

Mr Menon said that the editorial may have misunderstood the amendments made to the Presidential Elections Act, noting that a candidate in the reserved election must meet the same qualifying criteria as any other candidate who stands and wins in a non-reserved election. “Second, as the Head of State, the President is the symbol of the country, and represents all Singaporeans, not just his ethnic group. These are important facts which ‘Awang’ has conveniently omitted in his editorial,” Mr Menon said.

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