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Singapore raps Utusan for ‘false assertions’ on Elected Presidency

SINGAPORE — The Republic’s High Commissioner to Malaysia has rebutted “false assertions” that Utusan Malaysia made in a recent commentary on Singapore’s Elected Presidency.

In his letter sent to the newspaper on Thursday, Mr Vanu Gopala Menon said that the Singapore President, who is elected with a popular mandate, “plays key roles in nation-building and in ensuring good governance”. TODAY File Photo

In his letter sent to the newspaper on Thursday, Mr Vanu Gopala Menon said that the Singapore President, who is elected with a popular mandate, “plays key roles in nation-building and in ensuring good governance”. TODAY File Photo

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SINGAPORE — The Republic’s High Commissioner to Malaysia has rebutted “false assertions” that Utusan Malaysia made in a recent commentary on Singapore’s Elected Presidency.

The article, which was published on Monday (Aug 14) in the Malay-language newspaper, described the Elected President’s role in Singapore as merely symbolic, and as such not something that the Malay community should be proud of, in spite of recently entrenched laws to guarantee minority representation.

In his letter sent to the newspaper on Thursday, Mr Vanu Gopala Menon said that the Singapore President, who is elected with a popular mandate, “plays key roles in nation-building and in ensuring good governance”.

The roles include serving as the symbol and unifier of a multi-racial Singapore, custodian of the country’s reserves and protector of the integrity of its public service, he explained.

The Utusan commentary was titled Berubahkah nasib kaum Melayu di Singapura? Presiden sekadar simbolik (Will the fate of Malays in Singapore change? President is only symbolic).

Noting that the Elected President’s post “has been dominated by non-Malays”, the commentary stated: “Perhaps it is because the non-Malays in Singapore have been given priority and advantages in whatever fields, that the Presidents concerned did not have to struggle to think about the fate of their own community.

It added: “As such, when a Malay holds the position of President, the direction that the Malay community is headed for will surely be given more attention, since the community has often regarded itself as being sidelined in its own country.”

In his letter, Mr Menon said: “It is incorrect to say that non-Malays in Singapore have been given ‘priority and advantages’. We certainly do not have a race-based system of benefits and patronage.” He noted that Singapore’s Malay community “has achieved significant social and economic progress within Singapore’s rules-based and meritocratic society”.

“We are, as a nation, proud of these accomplishments, and we will achieve further progress together.”

Mr Menon added: “Singapore will not tolerate the use of race or religion to promote ill-will between different segments of Singapore society, or to undermine our institutions.”

It was the second time in three months that the High Commissioner had written to the newspaper on the subject.

He previously responded to a May 28 editorial in Utusan on the Elected Presidency scheme, to point out several inaccuracies such as its claims that  “meritocracy was always being used as an excuse to discriminate against Malays” and “meritocracy was also open to manipulation”.

In his response to the earlier commentary which was published on the Singapore Foreign Ministry’s website, Mr Menon said: “Singapore’s meritocratic system has never been ‘manipulated’ or ‘used as an excuse to discriminate’ against Singapore’s Malay community, or any other community.”

In his letter to Utusan on Thursday, Mr Menon pointed out that the newspaper did not publish his response to the May 28 editorial “for reasons I could not understand other than not providing a true picture to the readers”.

“Instead, the Editor published a second commentary (on Monday), with similar inaccuracies and misrepresentations of Singapore’s Presidential Election and of the statements by Singapore’s political office holders,” he added.

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