Fitness first luxury gym not for ‘lowly clerks’

From ‘Gym chain Fitness First should respect the dignity of labour’, 23 May 2015, Voices, Today

(Preethi Athavle): In reference to the report “Fitness First to launch one-of-a-kind gym for captains of industry” (May 21), I take objection to Fitness First saying that chief executives “do not want to be down there … with a lowly clerk”.

There are many facilities such as business-class seats in airlines and five-star hotels that ordinary people cannot afford. And it is fine for businesses to argue that the higher prices are due to the higher costs of providing premium services.

But to use the adjective “lowly” for a clerk is unacceptable. While many senior executives may have overcome great difficulties to attain their current position, it is equally true that not everyone starts at the same point in life’s race.

According to a Financial Times article, the new invite-only ‘penthouse gym’ would be a ‘private and intimate’ affair so that chief executives don’t have to ‘share a changing room with the great unwashed’. I suppose it would also spare them the embarrassment of appearing less fit, huffing and puffing away on the treadmill, hence depriving all of us ‘lowly’ people the pleasure of realising we can do more reps and lunges than someone from the ‘C-suite’ class. Let’s be considerate, then. How else are these people going to maintain their fitness and keep our economy booming? By JOGGING in Bishan Park? Banish the thought!

Rich folk have many ways and means of hobnobbing with their peers of course, whether it’s partying at Pangaea over thousand dollar cocktails or playing a few rounds of golf at an exclusive club. With the new FF gym catering to the elite, you can discuss business over treadmills or a herb power smoothie, or even arrange for meetings in branded sweatpants since you’re too busy for showers. Because that’s what rich people go to gyms for apparently, to have a goddamn teleconference after swinging some dumbbells around. It’ll be the gym equivalent of the sky-high ‘Elysium’ paradise in that sci-fi movie of the same title starring Matt Damon. That sounds like a better name for it, by the way. Ironically, gravity is a force that tends to pull you down to earth, not lift you into the skies.

They’ve got the 5 Cs and now they want to add a G to the mix, a gym that gives you a ‘luxurious fitness an wellness experience’. Maybe they have staff there who help dab the sweat off your brow as you work out, or stand by your side cooling you down with a giant fan, feeding you grapes and organic muesli mini-bars for that quick energy boost while you strive to meet your ‘fitness goals’, without the clerks and the rest of the peasantry getting in your way and secretly mocking your belly flab. Hey FF, how about an exclusive gym for lowly clerks too? You could call it Fitness First Fun Camp or something, where members get to pound metal and chop wood, getting a ‘holistic’, natural workout at the same time as serving their Gravity masters 38 storeys above the ground.

TRS creators charged with sedition

From ‘The Real Singapore duo slapped with 7 charges under Sedition Act’, 15 April 2015, article in CNA

The couple behind socio-political website The Real Singapore (TRS) – a 26-year-old Singaporean man and a 22-year-old Australian woman – were on Tuesday (Apr 14) each charged with seven counts of sedition.

Yang Kaiheng and Ai Takagi allegedly published seditious articles on the website between October 2013 and February 2015. One of these articles falsely claimed that an incident between police and some members of the public during a Thaipusam procession on Feb 3 had been sparked by a Filipino family’s complaint that the drums played during the procession upset their child. The contributor of the article posted on another website that the allegations made in the TRS piece were untrue.

Yang is Singaporean, while Ai Takagi is Australian. According to the charge sheets, the particular articles have the “tendency to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different groups of people in Singapore, name, between ethnic Indians in Singapore and Philippine nationals in Singapore”.

…Under the Sedition Act, the duo are liable, on conviction for a first offence, to a fine of up to S$5,000 or to imprisonment for a term of up to three years, or to both. As for the charge under the Penal Code, they are punishable with imprisonment of a maximum of one month, or a maximum fine of S$1,500, or both.

From St article 15 April 15, Couple behind TRS website face sedition charges

From St article 15 April 15, Couple behind TRS website face sedition charges

The ‘seditious’ articles are still online as we speak. In the Thaipusam article, it is alleged that the provocative but flawed eye-witness account ‘asserts’ that a Filipino family CAUSED the clash. Since instruments are banned during the festival, I would imagine the police confronting the musicians anyway, with or without a crying Pinoy child. But if anyone tries to push the argument of cause vs correlation they may just find themselves at the receiving end of a contempt of court charge.

If it weren’t a Pinoy family but say an Indian family of another caste, would that constitute ‘sedition’? What about the xenophobic backlash against the celebration of Philippine Independence Day in Orchard? Shouldn’t those Singaporean bigots who fumed against the event get slapped with sedition charges as well? Or the PRC family who complained about the smell of curry from their Indian neighbours. When does a symptom of xenophobia become deadly ‘seditious’?

In the other offending article on Filipino employers, Pinoys are described as ‘relentless backstabbers’ and generally ‘share the same traits’. This guy was basically stereotyping a particular race/nationality, just like how some Facebooker complained about the smell of a certain race on the MRT, or some ex-presidential candidate thought he was in Bombay while on a bus. If I say ‘those damned Americans are a bunch of redneck hillbillies’, would I be accused of inciting hostility among groups? When Amos Yee derided Christians, he was ‘causing distress’ and ‘harassment’ but not ‘promoting ill-will’. If he had insulted another religion would he be slapped with sedition? We were all even called ‘dogs’ once by PRC scholar Sun Xu. I doubt he was bitten by a single charge. Anton Casey flew to Perth before anyone thought about whether his remarks were deemed seditious because some Singaporeans got so insulted they wanted him to pay dearly with his life.

Does hiding racial stereotypes behind ‘stand-up comedy’ protect you from sedition charges, like if you mimic an Indian accent for example? If Kumar says ‘You Chinese buggers all only know how to gamble’, do I have a case against him?  The acronym ‘PRC’ is particularly offensive. In the ‘pee in a bottle’ article, the writer simply assumed that the woman who let her grandson drop his pants and wee in public was a ‘PRC’. Nothing else was mentioned about how she wanted to sabotage all hotpots in Geylang and blow up all the PRCs eating from it. PRC is the ‘n**ger’ of Chinese nationals. Just like when Edz Ello called us ‘stinkaporeans’, we couldn’t take it and demanded that he join the Sedition Squad.

Likewise, the PRC stripper article was about how ‘the majority’ of Chinese women come here on bogus work permits to steal other people’s husbands. Nothing new here. People have been harbouring negative stereotypes about ‘China women’ for more than a decade. Do we see people rounding them up and hanging them from trees and poke them with hot skewers? No. Do people make wild empty threats against the entire community on Facebook? Of course. Do we need to bother with what they say? I guess it depends. The Sedition laws seem to guard against the possibility that people take such comments so seriously they would brandish a flaming pitchfork over it. In the past, ‘seditious literature’ was serious business. They were documents specifically designed to instigate a mutiny against British imperialists, not some rant about why you think people from a certain country suck.

If the TRS offends you, you have the moral obligation not to read or share its articles. If you experience discrimination at work, you can take formal action with the authorities without dehumanising the entire race online. Let’s not kid ourselves that racial/foreigner tensions don’t exist. We are an island of tribes and little cosy enclaves getting the job done in spite of our differences, not a ‘It’s a Small World After All’ theme ride.

Two full Malay ministers in Cabinet is testament to meritocracy

From ‘Promotion to full minister shows Singapore runs on meritocracy: Masagos’, 8 Apr 2015, CNA

The promotion from Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs to full Minister is a testament to how Singapore is run on the basis of meritocracy, Mr Masagos Zulkifli said on Wednesday (Apr 8). Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the promotion, along with changes to the portfolios of four other Ministers, earlier on Wednesday.

In an interview with MediaCorp’s Berita, Mr Masagos said: “It would seem apparent that the Malay community would celebrate having two full Ministers in the Cabinet for the first time, but I think this is also how Singapore runs on the basis of meritocracy.

“That you get the post, and are rewarded for your performance and contributions because of the impact you have made. Not because you are close to a particular person or that you are the son of somebody,” he added.

“I think this is important because it gives you the credibility to the people you serve as well as your colleagues. And I’m glad that this is the system that we have.

Credit to Masagos for getting the promotion, but feminists continue to frown because there’s only ONE woman minister in Cabinet currently (Grace Fu). Nobody’s going to tell you that women in Singapore have not ‘progressed’ based on their dismal representation in Cabinet. But since we’re keeping score, here’s the ministerial ethnic breakdown, with the Chinese leading the way.

Chinese: 13
Indian: 4 (Vivian Balakrishnan technically of mixed-race heritage)
Malay: 2
Eurasians: None (Though S Iswaran represents the community’s interests)

There’s another system that Masagos probably needs to acknowledge, one that brought him into politics in the first place. The GRC. To be specific, his Tampines team led by Mah Bow Tan beat their SDA opponents 68-31% in the 2006 GE. SDA did reasonably well despite the line-up of relative unknowns though, compared to the other opposition parties including an SDP led by Chee Soon Juan’s sister.

In 1988,  Goh Chok Tong introduced the ‘Team MP’ concept, in which selected GRCs would require to place at least one Malay candidate up for contest. There were also select committees set aside to decide if you were considered a ‘minority’ candidate or not. A ‘Malay’ for example, is defined as someone who is Malay, Javanese, Boyanese, Bugis, Arab or ANY OTHER PERSON, generally accepted as a member of the Malay community or by that community’.  To which Chiam See Tong remarked that even a European, or a MAORI, would be considered as a ‘Malay’ if he or she was generally accepted to be one. I’m bad in Mandarin and read everything in English i.e jiak kantang. Does that make me accepted as an ‘ang moh’?

Chiam then went on to urge the Government to reconsider such ‘racial’ politics, while others lamented about the ‘special protection’ given to Malays, which curiously enough, allegedly contravenes the principles of meritocracy. In other words, that a tinge of ‘tokenism’ belies the progress of the minority community, a phrase that Ng Eng Hen used to deny that the rise of Malays/Muslims in the armed forces had anything to do with race or religion.

So it’s not just a matter of simply performing well and earning it regardless of your ethnicity. Ex press secretary to LKY James Fu wrote in a 1988 letter that Malay MPs were dropped or shuffled around constituencies based on ‘preferences for a Chinese candidate’ from the ground, and even expressed concern that there may come a time when there may be NO MALAY MPs at all if we allowed non-Malay communities to vote their own kind into Parliament. Chillingly, he had this to say about the Chinese voting habits: “The fact is, other things being equal, Chinese voters prefer a Chinese to a Malay MP.” We have voters preferring young pretty politicians over old, ugly ones, tall ones over short ones, thin over fat. I mean, why trust voters and bother with elections at all, let the PM handpick all his men/women then, Malay or non-Malay, then we don’t need to worry about a certain race or sex dropping out of Parliament entirely. It’s all democracy’s fault that we’re racially imbalanced, dammit!

Echoing Chiam, our Cabinet should be made up of Singaporeans regardless of race language or religion, not Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian, mixed-race or what have you and neither should we indulge in bean-counting MPs and ministers of a certain race as a gauge of one community’s progress as a whole. But that, the PAP would tell you, is unrealistic. Still,  when it comes to the top position, the man of the House, it appears that there remain reservations on the ethnicity of a future Prime Minister other than a majority race. LKY himself admitted that he did not consider S Dhanabalan as a successor as he felt Singapore was not ‘ready for an Indian PM’. Now that he’s passed away, no one would ever accuse him of discrimination. The day of ‘true meritocracy’ or equality will only come when we see a Malay taking the helm. Until then, we’re not as impartial as we’d like to think ourselves to be.

SilkAir finally recruiting male stewards

From ‘SilkAir to finally have male cabin crew’, 1 March 2015, article by Karamjit Kaur, Sunday Times

After 26 years of having only women cabin crew, SilkAir has decided to let the men in as well.

…The major shift is necessary because it has become “increasingly difficult” to attract “the right (women) candidates with the qualities that we uphold”, SilkAir said in a recent e-mail to staff.

Amid an overall manpower crunch, the airline told staff that it also has to compete for stewardesses with other local and foreign carriers, such as parent Singapore Airlines, budget carriers Tigerair and Jetstar Asia, as well as Middle Eastern airlines Emirates and Qatar Airways.

…SilkAir’s decision to hire air stewards is a “positive and long-awaited” move, said Associate Professor Seshan Ramaswami, who teaches marketing at the Singapore Management University.

…SilkAir’s new hiring policy “reflects a moving away from a stereotype that only women are suitable for these flight crew duties on board”, he added. At the end of the day, what is critical is the training, he pointed out.

The men, whose uniforms are now being designed, will be subject to the same recruitment terms and 14-week training period as the women, who don one-piece lime green or rustic red wrap dresses, the airline’s spokesman said.

On why SilkAir never hired air stewards before this, she said: “Our earlier strategy was to hire women crew who embodied nurturing characteristics in line with the SilkAir experience we aimed to provide customers.”

According to the SilkAir recruitment ad, the airline requires the following: Cabin crew with a ‘combination of grace and a warm smile’ to provide excellent and attentive service to our customers’,  ‘grace’ and ‘warm’ being adjectives that are not often associated with the male sex, and really serve as a hint that women have always been preferred without explicitly stating that men need not apply. The real reason why SilkAir relaxed their females-only hire policy here is that they’re short of staff, i.e male cabin crew are an afterthought.

Given that other airlines have no problem with stewards, one wonders if SilkAir’s outdated profiling of the female sex as ‘nurturing’ as their rationale for not hiring men comes across as discriminatory practice. According to the Tripartite hiring guidelines, you’re discouraged from recruiting staff based on gender, among other things like race or language, and if there’s a strict gender policy it should be reflected and explained in the ad for clarity. There’s no evidence that SilkAir’s service needs to be differentiated from the rest by having, literally, a feminine touch. If you’re Hooters Air, I’d probably understand.

While we laud such moves as ‘progressive’ and ‘fair practice’, we shouldn’t forget to ask: Why only now, SilkAir? Even airlines from Middle Eastern countries like Kuwait Airways have gotten over the gender hump, for goodness sake. Thailand even has an airline (PC Air) that takes pride in hiring TRANSGENDERS.  Interestingly, SilkAir was the first local airline to break the gender stereotype in 2001 by hiring Singapore’s first female pilot. Yet the papers neglected to mention that at the same time they were hanging on to the traditional concepts of female compassion, empathy and motherly instincts by keeping their cabins testosterone free, with a staff profile resembling more like hospital ward nurses and midwives in the 1950s than a modern cabin crew.

If men didn’t have a ‘nurturing’ bone in their body, we wouldn’t see them volunteering in old folks’ homes, babysitting, nursing, feeding baby tiger cubs or being masseurs. In fact, there are times when you do need some manly muscle in the cabin e.g when there’s a drunk rowdy passenger who needs to be strapped down, or if some guy gets his crotch stuck in the zipper in the lavatory. Stuff which you can’t accomplish with ‘grace’ and warm smiles alone.

MP Lam Pin Min accused of inciting enmity towards Hindus

From ‘Film-maker Martyn See makes police report against PAP MP Lam Pin Min’, 26 Feb 2015, article by Rachel Chang, ST

Film-maker Martyn See made a police report on Thursday against People’s Action Party (PAP) MP Lam Pin Min, whom he accused of making racially seditious comments. Dr Lam had posted on his Facebook page earlier this month about three Singaporean men who were arrested at Thaipusam celebrations on February 3 for various offences. These include disorderly conduct and voluntarily causing hurt to a police officer.

Linking to a blogpost that has since been deleted, Dr Lam wrote: “An example of how alcohol intoxication can cause rowdiness and public nuisance.” In his police report on Thursday, Mr See charged that these comments “distorted an allegation by the Police into a statement of fact”.

A police statement on the trio’s arrest said that “all three men were believed to have been drinking earlier as they smelt strongly of alcohol.” But, Mr See said, this has yet to be established by the authorities as fact and the three men have not yet been tried.

In saying that the three were intoxicated while participating in the holy festival of Thaipusam, Dr Lam incited enmity towards the Hindu community, he charged.

Mr See also complained in his police report that Dr Lam’s comments “caused ill-will and hostility between different races and communities. The responses on his Facebook page show overwhelming hostility to his remark. Yet, he has allowed his offending words to remain online”.

He added that Dr Lam breached the sub judice rule, as judicial proceedings in this case have yet to be completed.

I wonder if Martyn See was aware of what another prominent figure said about Indians on a bus, a man who once campaigned for President branding himself as the ‘voice of the people’, represented by a bizarre logo that really says ‘Someone needs a tight slap every time he opens his mouth’.

Tan Kin Lian’s ‘Mumbai’ remark pales in comparison, of course, to what another MP in the past used to say about Little India, that it was in ‘complete darkness because there were too many Indians around’.  You didn’t need to file a sedition charge against ex-MP Choo Wee Khiang then because he got jail time for corruption anyway.

One man who managed to get away with ‘hard truths’ even if they threatened to ‘incite enmity’ among the races was LKY himself, who had some controversial thoughts about Muslims and their dietary habits. Now in ICU and fighting for dear life, it appears that all is forgiven. God bless his hardy soul, and anyone who has the audacity to charge our ailing founding father of inflammatory hate-speech deserves to rot in hell for all eternity.

On Feb 11, the AGC issued a warning against anyone commenting publicly on the Thaipusam scuffle, that they take a ‘serious view’ of any remark calculated to interfere with the ‘integrity of the administration of justice’, while Lam posted his ‘inflammatory’ comment on Feb 4, latching on what the Police reportedly believed to be another kind of spirit lurking within the premises of the religious procession. It’s still online as we speak, and captured here for posterity. Maybe Lam was too busy distributing oranges to his ward folk over CNY, or his FB administrators were sleeping on the job, intoxicated by CNY junk food.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 8.50.45 PM

In the last GE in 2011, a police report was filed against a PAP MP hopeful for allegedly campaigning on ‘Cooling Off Day’, with the following post:

OooOoooOooh! so that’s what REALLY happened? Wow. I think tears in Parliament is worse than ANYTHING ELSE!’

Tin Pei Lin’s defence for the breach of election rules? The ‘web administrator’ did it. OooOoooOooh so that’s what happened! Tin is still MP, by the way. The fate of her bimbo administrator remains unknown.

See’s police report is a shrewd test of the dictum ‘no one is above the law’, and with ordinary people getting successfully sued for defamation or arrested for sensationalising the Thaipusam incident, it’s interesting to see how someone in a position of power reacts, and the events that unfold, when the tables are finally turned. A very inauspicious year for Dr Lam then, ( born 1969, year of the rooster. According to Grand Master Tan Khoon Yong, the outlook for Lam’s sign is ‘gloomy’, his ‘judgement may be affected’ and ‘lawsuits are possible too’), who now has to stop unpacking his ang pows, get over the columbarium saga and explain away the alcohol comment invariably using the ‘Get Out of Jail’ word ‘context’. Hopefully some hapless social media manager doesn’t become the scapeGOAT this CNY.

Condo ads featuring only one ethnic group

From ‘Property ads must reflect Singapore’s diversity’, 21 Feb 2015, ST Forum

(N. Varaprasad): ADVERTISEMENTS for residential property – private as well as executive condominiums – tend to show only one ethnic group swimming, cycling in the park, working out, admiring the sunset from the balcony, going to school, and having ladies’ tea sessions or cocktails.

These advertisements portray an aspirational way of life and should be representative of Singapore’s multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan society.

Government advertisements take care to be representative of the various ethnic groups in Singapore. The private sector could do the same. There is no need for more rules and guidelines if private developers can do this in a creative manner.

The writer is mistaken. There are actually 2 ethnic groups which feature prominently in condo ads. Firstly, those with the ‘Pan-Asian‘ look, or what we used to call ‘Eurasians’ and the less politically correct ‘mixed-race’. In the City Gate TVC, we see a confident, successful man of the world strutting through his ‘mandrobe’, looking less like a property ad than a Hugo Boss commerical. Meanwhile his sultry companion is out there frolicking among the condo amenities, her hair wind-blown, dressed like a Greek Goddess getting her dainty feet wet by an infinity pool. What the ad doesn’t show is these two beautiful creatures having soft focus slo-mo sex against the backdrop of the city’s spectacular night lights, and having pancakes the morning after. In goddamn bathrobes.

Like a Hugo Boss

Like a Hugo Boss

Then there are the ethnic Chinese. In the Lake Life EC ad, we see what’s clearly a 3 Gen family enjoying a family dinner after an activity-packed day of pet-walking and urban farming. What’s inaccurate about this happy family scenario is not so much the sheer amount of leisure time these folks have on their hands, but that the kid isn’t playing with his gadget or doing his tuition homework, and that they have wooden salt and pepper shakers on the dining table. Preposterous.

Every dinner is Thanksgiving at Lake Life

Every dinner is Thanksgiving at Lake Life

My problem with these cookie-cutter condo ads is not how they tend to be selective of the race of their actors, but how cliche-ridden they are. The residents portrayed are generally healthy and good-looking, the only thing fat about them being the size of their wallets. No one ever looks like they’re exhausted or relieved after a hard day’s work and just want to laze in front of the TV tucking into cup noodles. Nor do we see anyone whistling while working on household chores, like ironing and folding clothes. Or maybe that kinda stuff is done by the invisible maid.

If you’re not lying in hammocks plucking grapes, brandishing expensive watches, choosing shoes to pair with a gown or gazing into the sunset you’re engaged in the following:

1) Yoga by the water, dressed in all white (Skywoods). You can, of course, yoga in a HDB playground, as long as you’ve attained the necessary mastery to ignore the noise from the void deck wedding or funeral nearby.

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 12.15.13 PM

2) Reenacting the film ‘Sideways’, with your champagne glass-chinking and carrot sticks (Skywoods). Of course why would you have a celebration in the air-con comfort of your own home when you can dress to the nines in the blistering HEAT? And why is there always a shot of SALAD in luxury condo ads? Could that explain why they’re all so trim and beautiful? Not once have I seen condo ad actors tucking into a bucket of fried chicken wings, or sipping 3 in 1 coffee.

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3) Emerging from the pool like a water nymph (D’nest). Because 80’s softcore is making a comeback. And then you can have sex and pancakes. Perhaps the intention of this gimmick is to make the view of the pool more enticing than the same old green shit you’re forced to see everyday from your apartment.

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4) Wearing jackets outdoors (The Interlace). Because the security guard downstairs will chase you away thinking you’re a trespassing vagabond if you ever dare come out of your house in singlet and shorts. And God forbid if you own a pair of Crocs. The management will charge at your feet with a flamethrower.

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5) Your mind and body are in a constant state of ‘rejuvenation’ and ‘tranquility’. And you don’t just do ‘dinner’. You do ‘Diner En Blancs‘ (The Cristallo). I mean, even the name of your condo sounds like a Michelin-starred Italian restaurant.

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6) Lying on the grass looking stylishly contemplative with the bohemian sarong you bought from a vintage shop in Haji Lane(Cristallo). Show those migrant workers at Chinese Garden on a Sunday how it’s done.

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Malays excluded from Navy due to lack of halal kitchens

From ‘Malays deployed in the SAF as sailors: Ng Eng Hen’, 16 Feb 2015, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

A person is deployed in a sensitive unit in the Singapore Armed Forces based on his ability and beliefs to ensure that he is not a security risk, not on his race, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Monday night. He also revealed that the SAF has started to deploy Malay servicemen onboard ships as sailors who will go out to sea. Previously, Malays in the navy were only deployed as “sea soldiers”, who primarily patrolled naval bases.

…Responding to a question on a perceived bias against Malays in the SAF and why they have been excluded from the Navy until now, Dr Ng said it was a “practical issue” of having halal-certified kitchens onboard ships. “(This is) because in a confined space, it is hard to have a halal kitchen. If you spend months out at sea, it is difficult.”

But provisions have been made for Malay Muslims who are willing to serve, said Dr Ng. “So we made and found some accommodation and started to have Malays in the navy as well, if the person is willing.” He also reiterated that Malays now serve in the army, navy and air force, adding that with Singapore’s small population, the SAF does not discriminate against anyone and promotes its servicemen based on their ability.

“We want to get the maximum out of each person in the SAF…we are putting the best people in the best positions.”

But for sensitive positions in the military, the SAF is not blind to the fact that “people can be blackmailed“, said Dr Ng. “We ask ourselves, can we trust this person in that position to make sure he will not be made use of, that he will not be vulnerable.”

In 1987, then Trade and Industry Minister BG Lee was bashed by critics across the Causeway for remarks which reinforced this ‘perceived bias’ against Malays in the armed forces, that the Government did not want to ‘put its soldiers in a difficult position where their emotions for the nation may be in conflict with their emotions for their religion’. In response, Chiam See Tong accused the practice as discriminatory towards the Malays and not being in the spirit of regional harmony, that the best way to build a nation was to ‘trust everybody’ to have that trust reciprocated. He was swiftly slammed by Malay MPs for trying to be a ‘hero’ for the Malay community when he was in no such position to do so.

Some observers suggest that this ‘cautious approach’ is due to an initial fear of Malay ‘Trojan Horses’ within the military, or in plainspeaking terms, ultimately a question of ‘loyalty’ amongst our own countrymen given our geopolitical ‘situation’. Lee Hsien Loong back then added that this was the ‘reality that we cannot run away from’, and the Malay situation would improve over time as the nation became ‘more integrated’. By ‘integration’, in the case of the Navy, surely we mean that a Malay soldier by now would have no qualms about firing a torpedo at someone else of the same ethnicity/religion in actual war, rather than the SAF accommodating extra space for halal kitchens on board ships, which begs the question of why these weren’t considered in the first place. How does the SAF decide which unit is more ‘sensitive’ than another as they gradually phase Malay soldiers in anyway?

What we do know is that we have Gurkhas tasked to guard the very lives of some important politicians, which I would consider a highly ‘sensitive’ deployment. Unlike our own born and bred Singaporeans, the fierce loyalty of these foreigners has never been in doubt. In Chiam’s own words, ‘We trust all kinds of foreigners but we do not trust our own Malay citizens’. In 2013, PAP MP Zaqy Mohamed raised a valid point about our eagerness in enlisting new citizens or children of foreign spouses into the army, and whether SAF was playing fair if it continues to maintain this ‘national security narrative’ affecting the military prospects of own Malay Sons of Singapore (MP asks how position of Malays in SAF compares to those of new citizens, Feb 6 2013, ST)

The ‘practical’ matter of dietary requirements aside, Ng Eng Hen also mentioned, rather strangely, about the SAF needing to screen out ‘people who can be blackmailed’, which I would infer as someone trained to be a soldier, but forced under circumstances to turn his weapon on his own people, or run away to join a mercenary brigand. Under what circumstances exactly isn’t clear. We have heard of NSmen turning their weapons on themselves though. To date, more tragedies have occurred due to suicide or accidents rather than an ’emotionally conflicted’ soldier going ‘Trojan Horse’ on the military, or someone forced to steal SAR 21s for a terrorist cell group otherwise their sex videos may get leaked on the internet. Maybe we should focus more on soldiers with undiagnosed mental disorders posing a danger to us all in peacetime , rather than being fixated on the notion that men of a certain demographic are a higher ‘security risk’ in sensitive units compared to others during actual war.

So, as Chiam has pointed out,  it appears that there still remains, especially in a time when we have our own people joining armies to wage war against Syria, a lingering trust issue in the military despite our integration efforts. At the same time, as the Defence Minister has stated himself, we don’t want to put Malays in high-ranking positions just to meet certain expected racial quotas, which would amount to ‘tokenism’. What we need is an honest, open discussion about the actual place of Malays in the armed forces, what exactly constitutes a ‘security risk’, whether this concern is still relevant today, and not, to put it in army vernacular, a ‘smoke-out’.

In the late nineties, LKY was more specific as to what a Malay soldier shouldn’t be commanding, namely a ‘machine gun unit’, that it would be ‘tricky business’ if such a soldier had family or religious ties to our immediate neighbours and that ‘he and his family’ would have a tragedy on their hands if we did not think this through. He did not say if it was OK for them to pilot fighter jets, drive tanks or even help design weapons in a research lab for that matter. PAP Malay MPs were quick to shrug off the senior Lee’s comment as an ‘honest and candid one’, and needs to be put in the right ‘context’ given our geographical realities. The reality is that if it were anyone but LKY telling us what a Malay should or should not do in such an indelicate manner, even if it were ‘candid’ to the point of satire, they may just be arrested for sedition.

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