Malaysian paper made ‘baseless’ allegations against Singapore Elected Presidency scheme: High Commissioner

SINGAPORE: Several “baseless and mischievous allegations” were made in an editorial by Utusan Malaysia on the changes to Singapore’s Elected Presidency scheme, Singapore’s High Commissioner to Malaysia said on Tuesday (May 30), in an open letter to the newspaper’s editor.

The allegations include the claim that, in Singapore, “meritocracy was always being used as an excuse to discriminate against Malays”, “meritocracy was also open to manipulation”, and that “Malays became weaker and marginalised from the corridors of power”, High Commissioner Vanu Gopala Menon said in the letter, which was published on the website of Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The editorial, titled “Presiden Melayu Ke-2?” was published in Utusan’s weekend edition, Mingguan Malaysia on Sunday, using the pseudonym “Awang Selamat”.

It said that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had begun to take steps to pave the way for a Malay leader to assume the Elected Presidency, and noted that it received a positive response from the majority but that some opposed the move as they thought the President should be elected based on merit. The writer proceeded to state his opinion of meritocracy in Singapore.

In his letter on Tuesday, the High Commissioner said that he “wish(ed) to set the record straight”.

“Meritocracy is a key pillar of Singapore’s system of governance. Our citizens have access to equal opportunities, regardless of race, language, or religion, and our policies are tailored to that end. Singapore’s Malay community has made significant social and economic progress over the past five decades, not because of privileges, but because of the community’s efforts in a fair and just society. Malay students have also excelled and topped national examinations,” Mr Menon wrote.

“Singapore’s meritocratic system has never been ‘manipulated’ or ‘used as an excuse to discriminate’ against Singapore’s Malay community, or any other community. We strictly prohibit our people, including the media, from using the issues of race, language, and religion to divide our society.”

The High Commissioner added that the editorial may have misunderstood the amendments made to the Presidential Elections Act.

He noted that a candidate in the reserved election must meet the same qualifying criteria as any other candidate who stands and wins in a non-reserved election.

Mr Menon added that, as the head of state, the President is the symbol of the country, and represents all Singaporeans, not just his ethnic group.

“These are important facts which ‘Awang’ has conveniently omitted in his editorial,” Mr Menon wrote.

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