From ‘Workers’ Party lacks minority representation’, 28 Jan 2013, ST Forum
(Paul Antony Fernandez):…As a Punggol East resident, I have reservations about whether the decision was the right one – during 10 days of campaigning, I did not see a Malay, Indian or anyone from a minority race among the WP members. I had thought that perhaps such members could not be around due to their work commitments, but at the WP’s victory parade yesterday, there was still no one from a minority race among their number.
The WP was formed primarily to address the concerns of workers across the board, especially low-wage workers. After General Election 2011, I realised that the WP was flooded with Chinese members. During the campaigning, I asked Ms Lee about the representation of the minorities in the WP, but did not get an answer.
Has WP leader Low Thia Khiang forgotten our national pledge where we pledged equality regardless of race or creed?
You’d have to worry for the electoral process if you have people like Fernandez here basing their vote on how multi-racial a party is rather than whether their candidate could do her job well. Since the exit of Michael Palmer, the PAP too has been lacking in minority race representation, that of the EURASIAN (Other than Christopher De Souza). Why isn’t Fernandez chiding the PAP for not fielding a Eurasian candidate as a one-for-one replacement instead of a Chinese colorectal surgeon? What, then, would be Fernandez’s ideal quota of minority race in any party, 1 minority for every 3 Chinese? Would a high-ranking Malay or Indian who calls the shots in a predominantly Chinese party be considered adequate ‘representation’? What did Fernandez have to say about the 4 TANS in the last Presidential election? Was that election, like the recent WP Punggol campaign, erm, RACIST too?
It’s easier for the ruling party having the strength and numbers to make their team as diverse as possible. The GRC system also practically ensures that the PAP is sufficiently multiracial, nevermind its sneaker motives. In 1988, Ling How Doong and Chiam See Tong from the SDP were challenged by Goh Chok Tong on how the party could claim to be multi-racial when they in fact fielded an all-Chinese team for the 1984 GE. Goh then suggested that such a selection could lead to an ‘all-Chinese Parliament’. Chiam was also against the ‘Team MP’ concept which was ‘racialist’ and challenged the ability of minority races to get into politics ‘by their own merit’. At the time, it was assumed that a Chinese voter was more likely to support a Chinese candidate, more so if the latter spoke their dialect. Fernandez’s concern about racial equality is a relic of an era when people tended to vote emotionally and communally, rather than as the educated, savvy, mature voter who thinks of his representative as a SINGAPOREAN first rather than a Chinese/Malay/Indian. In fact even after a decade (2008) since the SDP race scuffle, the Prime Minister himself didn’t think the country was ready for a non-Chinese Leader.
Opposition parties do not have the luxury to be multi-racial and multi-gender just for the sake of it, when they really need the best possible candidates regardless of race or sex from a limited pool to challenge the PAP. In spite of its small number, the executive council of WP already has its fair share of (two) Malays and (one) Indian, which makes Fernandez’s snap judgement about WP’s make-up rather petty and unfair considering the overall demographics of Singapore. With such strong preconceptions about race in politics, one is prone to selectively zooming in on images of Chinese faces and ignoring the few seconds worth of ‘minority representation’. The deception would be magnified if Fernandez wasn’t in fact following the parade truck on the ground from start to finish (Pritam Singh and Faisal Manap were on board), but watching it on TV. It’s uncertain if he was paying any attention to WP’s activities since the GE 2011, or was just basing his conclusions of WP ‘Sinocentricity’ on the blue-collar vibe of the typical ‘Huat’-hooting WP audience.
And I don’t remember there being a single mention of the word CREED in our Pledge. Maybe Fernandez imagined it, like how he imagined the ‘flood’ of Chinese faces in WP.