I was visited by my MP recently in the run-up to the coming General Elections and that got me thinking about what does it mean to be a Chinese voter?
Pic by Chinatownology: Lion dance in Singapore the 1960s
Ethnic Chinese or just the mandarin-speaking community?
Although Singapore is always considered a Chinese-majority country, many policies espoused by the government are not very favorable towards the mandarin-speaking community.
One always has to differentiate ethnic Chinese and the mandarin-speaking community. The latter definitely belongs to the former but not all ethnic Chinese speaks mandarin especially in an English-speaking environment such as Singapore.
Hence it’s more accurate to ask what does it mean to be a mandarin-speaking voter?
Most of these people come from middle or middle-lower income group and on top of the usual bread and butter woes faced by people of this income level, they also feel estranged from the larger society. Making English the first language has affected their employment and promotional opportunities. Naturally, the angst built up for the Mandarin-speaking community and consequently, they view themselves as the underdog for the society.
(It is an insult and a hypocrisy that dialects flow once more onto TV and radio because the ruling incumbents want to promote their populist Pioneer Generation Package.)
I am a Chinese Voter
The PAP has failed to realise that their social darwinistic measures and language colonialism have sidelined the Mandarin and dialect-speaking community.
As such Low Thia Kiang, a Nantah graduate, became the advocate for this community. With his ‘grassroots English’, he gave voice to this marginalized community and perhaps a chance to dialogue with the English-speaking elite.
Our parents are Chinese. We are Chinese. Our children are Chinese.
I think whichever party that wants to gain the mandarin-speaking voter group must recognise the problems faced by the mandarin-speaking community, especially with regard to employment and dialects. Our cultural identity needs to be taken seriously before we lose our place in the society.