Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A Malay perspective on the White Paper

I have been busy lately but had a strong itch to write on the PAP's glaring 6.9 million figure. And it doesn't make it better with WP proposing the 5.9 million either. Singapore is a small country and growing bigger will metaphorically and maybe literally 'sink' us. If there is any country where anyone wants to meet any nationality in the atlas, do come to Singapore as we are opening our gates to anyone that is willing to be Singaporean and help boost the economy. Selamat Datang!

You turn left, right, bottom, or top, you will see a human being. As you take the public transport, don’t be mistaken that you are sitting beside a pinoy although they look like Malay. Where I am staying, I have counted there are 4 pinoys staying at my block. I am not xenophobic, but I’m just perplexed that they are everyhwhere and the person sitting next to you may not be a Singaporean native, but an imported citizen.

The White Paper is full of contradictions. As a Malay-Muslim, I was aghast in disbelief when the government proposed that there will 6.9 million people in 2030. Being a minority in this country I cannot help but feel threatened, insecure and helpless because I know the Malays are not producing enough and the government are importing ‘Malays’ from other regional countries. You mean there is no alternative measure to help Singaporeans? 

So overcrowding in Singapore is inevitable. But how far does the government want to stretch the problem of overcrowding? I beginning to feel claustrophobic in town areas and heartlands.

Artificial city, heritage lost

I remember reading something about Singapore morphing into an artificial cityI missed the good old days where I used to hang out at Lorong Fatimah and play with my cousins there. It was fun, carefree and memorable. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to revive the kampong life but I missed that feeling of originality that Singapore used to have and we were super proud of it. Yes, time has changed so Singapore has to move forward. But moving forward doesn’t mean that we must sacrifice our cultural heritage by chopping the Mango Tree at Gedung Kuning or demolish a cultural heritage that symbolise the essence of Singapore's multiculturalism, all in the name of redevelopment. Think about the future generation who have little to associate themselves as Singaporeans. In order to revisit the past, our children have to visit the museum or Google it up. How can we learn from history when history has been wiped out from our Singaporean lives? There is no personal touch and it's unnatural. What’s left in the present are grey buildings with high-tech gadgets. Sad isn’t it?

Mixed-marriages, mixed-breed, but what’s your race?

As Singapore government open up the gates wider to welcome the foreigners into our country, we also welcome the notion of mixed-marriages among Singaporeans. I remember it was such a rare sight to spot an ang moh in neighbourhoods a decade ago, but now we see ang mohs jogging or eating at hawker centres along with their mixed-breed children staying in the condos or landed properties even in obscure areas such as Woodlands, Choa Chu Kang and Jurong West. These are signs that they are integrating into our society. Okay that’s good, but what about their children who are born here? Are they really integrating well and making the effort to understand our intricate local culture? What about the future generation of Singaporeans who are mixed-breed? Do they still retain the native Singaporean blood (Indian, Malay, Chinese), or by that time it will be more upbeat to label their race as ‘Eurasian’ or ‘Caucasian’?

Dilute race and language

Dilute race and language

I chided in disgust as I recalled how Dr Yaacob Ibrahim proposed reducing the status of Malay language to be taught as foreign languageSo this is the revelation and this is where we are heading, as the government is gearing up towards the increase in population, and therefore by simplifying the already simplified Malay to something unthinkable such as foreign language. All because we are preparing our future citizens to come to Singapore so that they can easily integrate into our society, easier for them to pick up the simplified language and everything is fuss free for these foreigners at the expense of our national identity. The government is bargaining our Singapore identity and there is nothing we can do about it because we are not decision-makers. We have become political scapegoats.

With the increase number of new citizens who are non-native speakers of our ethnic languages, it will pose a problem of diluting the Malay language just like the dilution of race and cultural heritage. Because there are so many inter-racial and mixed-marriages, there will be a problem of communication and code-swtiching. Naturally, one language will dominate the other, and parents will face challenges speaking their native languages. Given the context now where our mother tongues are not as frequently used and English language is a seen as the lingua franca, the future generation may have to resort to simplified version of the mother tongues so as they could get by with the grades in major exams such as PSLE, GCE O and A levels. Already there isn’t enough effort to emphasize on the Malay language except for a small number of activists who painstakingly champion this issue. The use of ‘rojak Malay’ is widespread. If left unchecked, it will corrode the language. Thus globalisation had seen the correct use of Malay grammar slipping away in front of our eyes.

I must admit that I belong to the generation where Malay language is diminishing at the speed of lightning. Although I had done well in Malay during my earlier school years, but after university there is little opportunity available to interact in Malay. Thankfully, my parents still converse in Malay and our family religiously subscribe to Berita Harian. As I have observed, Malay parents now speak more in English than Malay, and sometimes they code-swtich or mix English-Malay in their daily interaction. Already this is a form of dilution and imagine what it will be in year 2030.

Ethnic competition

The PAP government must be careful with its new, perhaps riskier  approach of encouraging ethnic identities and promoting Chinese-educated, Mandarin and English-speaking elite. If it stimulates ethnic competition that disadvantages the minorities or leads to perceptions that the majority is acting to further its own interests and dominance, especially if the economy slips, it could generate all kinds of ethnic issues and tensions.

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1 comment:

  1. It's silly to play the race card at a time when all citizens will soon be minority in their own country.