Singapore’s social cohesion has been achieved through deliberate government intervention. To what extent do you agree with this statement?
I agree with this statement to a large extent. Singapore is a multi-ethnic country with people from many different racial, cultural and religious backgrounds. Though Singapore has enjoyed peace since the 1960s, Singaporeans have constantly been reminded that racial and religious sensitivities can upset social harmony. A lack of tolerance by any groups can result in conflict that Singapore can ill-afford. Thus, it is vital to have strong and stable bonds among the people as it is the basis for Singapore’s happiness,
prosperity and progress. As such, the government implemented numerous policies implemented and instituted several sound laws and legislation. This is the basis to Singapore’s social cohesion. However,
Singaporeans’ ability to tolerate one another also played a part in Singapore’s social cohesion.
First, the numerous policies implemented by the government have vastly helped in achieving social cohesion in Singapore. The policy of multi-racialism promotes equality among the races, with no special rights granted to any particular racial or religious group. This policy recognizes English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil as official languages of Singapore. The absence of racial and religious conflicts in Singapore shows that this policy had worked well. Fairness to all the racial and religious groups in Singapore has enabled these groups to co-exist harmoniously. The ethnic integration policy promotes racial harmony in HDB estates by preventing the formation of racial enclaves. Under this policy, there are maximum proportions of HDB flats for all ethnic groups in each HDB block and neighbourhood. Once the quota has been reached for an ethnic group, there would be no further sale of HDB flats to the ethnic group in order to have a balanced mix of residents of different races in each neighbourhood and block. Most Singaporeans agree that the implementation of ethnic quotas serves the greater good. It is in these HDB estates that Singaporeans from various backgrounds and communities interact. By maintaining a multi-racial environment in our housing estates, we maintain racial harmony and religious tolerance. The interests of minority groups are safeguarded by the Minority Representation Policy that enables minority groups to be represented in Parliament – through Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs).
This system ensures that the concerns and needs of the minority groups are made known to the government. In addition, the system requires political parties to take a multi-racial approach when campaigning in the GRCs. Candidates from the different races in each team would have to co-operate with one another.
Second, the Singapore government has also instituted sound laws to protect and promote inter-racial harmony. The Presidential Council for Minority Rights (PCMR) was established with the main function of scrutinizing legislation. It ensures that all Acts of Parliament—after they have had their second and third
readings before they are presented to the President for assent—do not discriminate against any racial
group. The PCMR is one of the important safeguards and checks instituted in Singapore to preserve racial harmony. The PCMR ensures that no law or subsidiary legislation is enacted which discriminates against any racial group. The Sedition Act is in Chapter 290 of the Statutes of Singapore. It was last revised in 1985. Subsection three of the Sedition Act describes the types of publication that have seditious tendency and these include publications that “promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between
different races or classes". In September 2005, the Sedition Act was first used on individuals when three men, including a teenager, were charged for making seditious and inflammatory racist comments on the
Internet. Incompliance with these laws would result in due punishment, so Singaporeans are unlikely to do anything that can create feelings of ill-will or hostility among different religions. The September 2005 case is one of the few cases where that happened.
Aside from government intervention, Singaporeans’ ability to tolerate one another also played a part in
Singapore’s social cohesion. Singaporeans know that without tolerance the society would fall apart, as evident from the riots in history that broke out due to the lack of tolerance by one of the races. As such Singaporeans have tried hard to tolerate people of different races or religions. Also, Singaporeans are well-educated. With education comes the awareness of the importance of social cohesion and a better grasp of tolerance.
In conclusion, Singapore’s social cohesion has indeed been achieved through deliberate government intervention. Singaporeans’ individual ability to tolerate one another has played an important role in achieving social cohesion, but this role is not as big a role as government’s intervention, because the
government’s intervention in terms of policies and laws has laid a strong and solid foundation for social
cohesion in Singapore. Moreover, Singaporeans’ ability to tolerate one another comes about mainly
due to education, and education comes about because the government has made it compulsory and available to all Singaporean children. As such, the government has yet again played a part in social cohesion by developing Singaporean’s tolerance to other races and religions due education.