Shanmugam: Nair siblings have every right to talk about racism, but method used not the way to go

There are aspects where people have to become more aware, and more sensitive.

Guan Zhen Tan| August 04, 02:00 PM

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam conducted a doorstop at Sri Siva Krishna Temple on Aug. 4, 2019 to give his thoughts on racial discourse and the recent Preetipls rap video.

He was there for the temple's groundbreaking ceremony for their new annexe building.

Shanmugam said that there was indeed racism in Singapore, and "every other multi-cultural society".

He also reiterated the need to frankly discuss issues like race, and raise awareness on casual racism.

But he disagrees with Preeti and Subhas Nair on the method to do so.

While Shanmugam agreed that the siblings had every right to talk about racism, he said the way in which they carried out the conversation was not right.

He said: "The Nair siblings, like everyone else, had every right to raise the issue of racism, but the way they did it was not right. So, I agree with their right to raise it, but question the way it was done."

He added that if more people discussed race and religion the way Preeti and Subhas did, there would be "more racism, not less".

Shanmugam also renounced the E-Pay ad yet again, calling it "in poor taste" and that the people behind the ad should learn to "be much more sensitive".

Saying that racism was a key issue for MHA, Shanmugam detailed how he thinks Singapore handles racism.

Shanmugam said: "Racism in Singapore -- we discuss it openly, we study it. For example, the IPS (Institute of Policy Studies) surveys. They come out once every two years -- details our people’s views on race, religious issues."

"The latest IPS survey issued last week showed in fact a slight increase in perception of workplace racial discrimination. In some other areas of race relationships, there was some improvement. That was published in the media."

Shanmugam also highlighted how these discussions are currently being had here.

He added: "We have regular conferences, symposiums, dialogues on these issues. Some by government agencies, some by NGOs, some by others."

Although he did stress that this cannot be just a top-down approach.

"There are areas where the government can do things, there are aspects where people have to become more aware, and more sensitive," he also said.

Come a long way

Shanmugan also detailed how far Singapore has come.

He said: "We have made much progress from that day on 9 August 1965, when Mr Lee Kuan Yew very powerfully said, “We are not a Malay nation, we are not a Chinese nation, we are not an Indian nation."

"This is a country for all Singaporeans.” That is a very powerful idea. We have progressed by having clear government policies and Singaporeans generally accepting multi-racial values."

This has led Singapore to a very different place from the West.

Shanmugam said: "As I said, we are not in the American situation. And we must see how we can progress further, because as many of us recognise, there continue to be racial fault lines and religious fault lines. It is always work in progress."

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