Monday, October 7, 2013

Berita Harian finally reports on SDP's Malay paper


Singapore's only Malay-language newspaper Berita Harian (BH) reported on the SDP's Malay policy paper last Saturday. This came after the party reported that BH had censored the SDP's proposals to address the concerns of the Malay community.

In its piece headlined SDP's effort to woo the Malays, BH said that the party had proposed a 10-point plan to improve the socioeconomic position of the Malay community in Singapore.

It cited Dr Chee Soon Juan as saying that the policy paper, titled 
A Singapore for All Singaporeans: Addressing the Concerns of the Malay Community, is an effort to create equal opportunity for Singaporean Malays so that they can compete fairly with Singaporeans of other races. 

The report also quoted SDP Chairman, Mr Jufrie Mahmood as saying that the party "wishes to see the government treat the Malay community in a fairer manner, just like the other communities, without any sidelining or discrimination”.

It highlighted several of proposals in the paper: measures such as minimum wage that would help improve the economic position of 20 percent of Malay families whose income is less than $1,500 per month, to make healthcare cost more affordable, and for the government to take over the administration of pre-schools and kindergartens.

It also mentioned that the SDP plan would make public housing more affordable and review factors that are holding back the educational performance of Malay students. The report quoted the statistic in the SDP paper that in the field of higher eduction the enrollment of Malays in local universities averages only 5% compared to 22% for the Chinese and 35% for Indians.

On this issue, the report said, the SDP questions the seriousness of Mendaki and its interests in making a PAP minister (Dr Yaacob Ibrahim) chairman of its board and several PAP MPs as directors of the board.

"This is the first time an opposition party is constructively addressing the issues faced by and voiced out for decades by the Malay community," BH quoted Mr Jufrie. 

Read also SDP's 10-point plan to improve conditions of Malays

After the SDP posted online the absence of the BH in the launch of our paper (see here), the leaders of the Malay online community strongly criticised the censorship. Some had even suggested starting an alternative Malay news site. (BH had also refused to report on a Malay public forum that the SDP organised in 2012.) 

The BH report is significant in two respects: One, it signals that the Singapore Press Holdings sees the growing futility of censoring opposition's views in the Internet age. 

And while one swallow does not a summer make, it is an important development that the Malay newspaper has reported on an SDP activity in between elections which it rarely does. The SDP hopes to see an open media environment take root in Singapore. 

Two, the report (coming on the heels of online criticism) suggests that the Malay community leaders, just like all Singaporeans, are concerned about the lack of a free flow of information in Singapore and are willing to speak up against it.

Keeping our citizens ignorant about the positive developments of the SDP while uncritically supporting the PAP should become a thing of the past.   

To read the full paper A Singapore for All Singaporeans: Addressing the Concerns of the Malay Communityplease click here