One of the easiest ways to make his hackles rise is to heckle the benign Minister Mentor about racial inequality in Singapore. He is either myopic or a dreamer who believes in a utopian Singapore where racial inequality exists only in one's imagination. Sooner or later he is going to be roused forcefully from his idealistic dreams by the stark realities of the problem.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong narrated in his National Day Rally on 16 August a classic example of a near Sino-Malay incident which was timely prevented from happening through the alertness and quick action of community centre officers. A Malay family had successfully obtained an HDB void deck for a wedding and was appalled to find it occupied by a Chinese family for a funeral rite. As it turned out, the Malay family showed exemplary communal spirit and understanding by agreeing to move the wedding to another site, thus preventing an ugly racial incident. Knowing the Chinese idiosyncracy where funeral rites are concerned, the Chinese family could not have given way. On the other hand the Malay family could have insisted on racial equality and held their ground.
Perhaps MM Lee would have been more enlightened about his utopian dream by the following snippet by a Chinese reporter of the Lianhe Zaobao published on 29 August. Apparently, this woman reporter specialised in collecting conversational titbits in her rounds of community centres. Here is an interesting account of her scoop: "As a majority race we Chinese do not always comprehend how our speeches and behaviours or national policy will influence our other racial compatriots. Because of this we should diligently listen. For example, my recent attendance at a dialogue has allowed me to hear for the first time that in actual fact our Malay compatriots when renting HDB void decks for wedding are rquired to state clearly in the signed form their agreement to withdraw if there are people (meaning Chinese) wanting the place for funeral rites". Can the enlightened Minister Mentor really believe that this is racial equality? If this is true, there is an urgent necessity for the government to rectify this racial inequality before it deteriorates into an untenable situation.
Another area of racial inequality perceived is the apparent unrestricted influx of foreign workers from China, especially in the service sector. Can one imagine Indian clients being served by Chinese waiters in Indian restaurants? This is because Indian restaurateurs find it impossible to overcome official red tapes when they apply for service workers from India. Apparently no such red tapes exist for the entry of service workers from China. So, as an expediency, some Indian rstaurateurs resort to the engagement of Chinese service workers to fill their waiter vacancies. Conversely, can one imagine Chinese clients being served by Indian waiters in a Chinese restaurant? Is this not ridiculous? So are the Indian restaurateurs receiving fair treatment and is this MM Lee's definition of racial equality? It is not surprising that rumblings of racism can sometimes be heard.
So the great Minister Mentor should exercise more circumspection before he ventures to declaim that there is no racial inequality in Singapore.