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On merit alone

It will ultimately be up to the people of Singapore to decide whether the country is ready for a non-Chinese prime minister, said Senior Minister of State (SMS) Janil Puthucheary... who is from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and heads the party’s youth wing.

Credit: Institute of Policy Studies.

“I do hope that our racial harmony progresses to the point where when people talk about a non-Chinese prime minister, it’s not about an icon of resetting or an icon of reimagining... but on the basis of that person’s ability to do the job.

“And that will be for Singaporeans to decide.”

It’s disappointing to read this, although I’m not surprised - he has to toe the party line after all.

The people of Singapore do not choose the next Prime Minister of Singapore. It is the party which wins the General Election that chooses the next Prime Minister. Nothing is stopping the PAP from putting forward a Prime Minister candidate who is non-Chinese.

On the other hand, the most popular Opposition party in Singapore, the Workers’ Party, has seen its chief - Low Thia Khiang, a Chinese-educated man wildly popular in the Chinese dialect-speaking heartlands - successfully pass the baton to an English-educated Sikh, Pritam Singh.

In the last General Election, Pritam led a more-than-diverse slate of candidates to run in Aljunied GRC. Other than him, there were two Chinese, one Malay, and one Eurasian. They won resoundingly with 60 per cent of the vote, even in the “heartlands” in the wards of Paya Lebar, Eunos, and Bedok Reservoir-Punggol.

I think Singaporeans are more than ready to look past race when picking our next crop of leaders.


That said, I want the best person possible for the Prime Minister of Singapore. It doesn’t matter if the Prime Minister is a Chinese man, a Malay woman, or an Indian transgender - I want this Prime Minister to be chosen based on merit alone. Likewise, I want other candidates to be rejected based on the lack of merit alone.

I don’t want it to be a case of “Singapore is not ready for a minority Prime Minister”, or “it’s a good thing to have a minority Prime Minister”. I don’t want good minority candidates to be rejected solely because of their race, just as I don’t want a minority minister just because it fulfils some race checklist.


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