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Lee Kuan Yew's remarks on Malays

Published in Straits Times September 30, 1999

A question of loyalty: the Malays in Singapore
                     Malay minster defends Lee
AT A Singapore 21 forum at Tanjong Pagar on Sept 18, a polytechnic student had asked Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew if certain instinctive emotional bonds among the ethnic groups could be overcome so that Singapore could become a nation.

This was Mr Lee's reply: "Yes, I think so, over a long period of time, and selectively. We must not make an error.

"If, for instance, you put in a Malay officer who's very religious and who has family ties in Malaysia in charge of a machine-gun unit, that's a very tricky business.

"We've got to know his background. I'm saying these things because they are real, and if I don't think that, and I think even if today the Prime Minister doesn't think carefully about this, we could have a tragedy.

"So, these are problems which, as poly students, you're colour-blind to, but when you face life in reality, it's a different proposition."

The reply prompted two Malay-Muslim groups to call for a dialogue with Mr Lee.

Taman Bacaan, a grassroots group, said Malay MPs should have a "heart-to-heart" discussion with Mr Lee, and wanted it to be held before a convention that is being organised in December to ensure the community does not get left behind in a knowledge-based economy.

Majlis Pusat, the central council for 38 Malay-Muslim cultural bodies, suggested that Malay-Muslim grassroots leaders and groups take part in the dialogue and "put the issue of Malay-Muslim loyalty to rest, once and for all".

Published in the Straits Times. September 30, 1999

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