“Apa Lagi Cina Mahu?” – What do the Chinese want?

A heated discussion over #ChinesePrivilege in Singapore took place in the past few days.

But another race-related debate, this time more fundamental and important, also took place between Singapore and Malaysia

On Sunday, the UMNO-owned Utusan Malaysia, a Malay language newspaper, published a editorial titled “President Melayu ke-2” (2nd Malay President). In the article, Utusan reportedly claimed that “meritocracy in Singapore has always being used as an excuse to discriminate against Malays”,  that “meritocracy was also open to manipulation”, and that “Malays in Singapore became weaker and marginalised from the corridors of power”.

With the Malaysian General Elections coming, it is normal to see Malay ultras in Malaysia playing up the race card, and Singapore as the bogeyman. Has happened before in the past, will continue to happen again in the future.

As expected, the Singapore authorities had something to say about that. In a letter uploaded on the MFA website on Tuesday, Singapore’s High Commissioner to Malaysia Vanu Gopala Menon took Utusan Malaysia’s comments to task.

Calling the claims made by Utusan “baseless and mischievous”, Menon said that “Singapore’s meritocratic system has never been ‘manipulated’ or ‘used as an excuse to discriminate’ against Singapore’s Malay community, or any other community.” He also added that  “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.”

(see full letter below)


This debate, however, is not new. It is merely an extension of the whole debate that led to Singapore’s separation from Malaysia. A fundamental debate over ideological differences between race based politics. A debate over being a ‘Malaysian-Malaysia’ or ‘Malay-Malaysia’. 

This shouldn’t be unfamiliar with you if you went through the Singapore education system.

And here’s what Lee Kuan Yew had to say about Malaysia’s race-based system. In 1965, Lee made the following comments in the Malaysian Parliament, in Malay (Source: National Archives):

Of course there are Chinese millionaires in big cars and big houses. Is it the answer to make a few Malay millionaires with big cars and big houses? How does telling a Malay bus driver that he should support the party of his Malay director (UMNO) and the Chinese bus conductor to join another party of his Chinese director (MCA) – how does that improve the standards of the Malay bus driver and the Chinese bus conductor who are both workers in the same company?

If we delude people into believing that they are poor because there are no Malay rights or because opposition members oppose Malay rights, where are we going to end up? You let people in the kampongs believe that they are poor because we don’t speak Malay, because the government does not write in Malay, so he expects a miracle to take place in 1967 (the year Malay would become the national and sole official language in Malaysia). The moment we all start speaking Malay, he is going to have an uplift in the standard of living, and if doesn’t happen, what happens then?

Meanwhile, whenever there is a failure of economic, social and educational policies, you come back and say, oh, these wicked Chinese, Indian and others opposing Malay rights. They don’t oppose Malay rights. They, the Malay, have the right as Malaysian citizens to go up to the level of training and education that the more competitive societies, the non-Malay society, has produced. That is what must be done, isn’t it? Not to feed them with this obscurantist doctrine that all they have got to do is to get Malay rights for the few special Malays and their problem has been resolved.

But as we already know, Malaysia and Singapore disagreed over this. We went our separate ways.

And we all know how that went.

That is all.

The end.