Yaacob Ibrahim had difficult task of balancing national interests & Malay community's for Elected Presidency

It's not easy being him.

Henedick Chng | November 08, 2016, 03:34 PM

It has been announced that Singapore's next Presidential Election will be reserved for Malay candidates.

In Parliament yesterday (Nov. 8), Minister Yaacob Ibrahim had a difficult task as a minister, Member-of Parliament (MP), and Malay community leader.

Speaking on the Elected Presidency (EP), he had a duty to voice the views of the Malay community that he represents, while balancing it with national interests as a cabinet minister and MP.

National interests as minister and MP: Setting the multiracial context

Yaacob began his speech by wearing the hat of a minister and an MP. He pointed out the multiracial ideal that Singapore strives towards. He notes, however, that in reality a tribal mentality still exists among the population, which makes government policies such as the HDB’s Ethnic Integration Policy necessary.

Malay community’s interests: Voicing the community’s desire for a Malay President

Following that, he wore his hat as a Malay community leader. He noted that younger Malays seemed reluctant to have a “circuit breaker” to ensure minority representation for the Elected Presidency in the name of meritocracy.

Nevertheless, he also said that the community has a collective desire to see a Malay President. According to Yaacob, this is because the community, having been historically viewed as underachieving, look forward for one of their own to be recognised for excellence and leadership.

He raised the example of his eldest brother, Mohd Ismail Ibrahim, who was celebrated as Singapore’s first Malay President’s Scholar. When Mohd Ismail was flying off for his studies at Paya Lebar Airport, many Malays had turned up to see him off. This was in contrast to fellow President’s Scholar Christopher Catherasoo, who was seen off by his immediate family.

National interests as minister and MP:

After voicing his community’s interests, Yaacob went on to reconcile it with national interests and emphasised that the need for any Malay presidential candidate to be held to the same exacting standards demanded of candidates from the other communities. This is to ensure that the Malay candidate will command the same respect from the Malay community and all Singaporeans.

The quote from Yaacob's speech below sums up the stance that he had to take yesterday, in balancing national and the Malay community's interests on the EP:

I was worried that this move to ensure that there would be a Malay President will be seen as the Government going out of its way to help a minority community that has lagged behind. I was worried that a Malay candidate may not be able to command the respect of all Singaporeans. So I will be the first to say that we must never compromise on the qualifying criteria. If we were to carry out the proposed tweak to ensure minority representation, we must do so. Because it is good for Singapore and Singaporeans, and not just for the minority communities and certainly not for the Malay community.

The full video of Yaacob’s speech can be viewed below.

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Top image screenshot taken from here

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