SPEECH BY IVA AMINUDDIN FOR MALAY MUSLIM ORGANISATIONS TRIBUTE TEA FOR NEW PM LEE HSIEN LOONG, 4 SEPTEMBER 2004, FULLERTON HOTEL
Selamat petang saya ucapkan kepada tetamu terhormat Perdana Menteri Lee Hsien Loong dan sidang hadirin sekalian.
1. Generasi pasca kemerdekaan telah disifatkan sebagai golongan yang terlalu bersikap individualistik, yang tidak mengendahkan masalah masyarakat, tidak kenal erti kesetiaan dan tidak berfikir dua kali untuk meninggalkan Singapura bagi mencapai peluang yang lebih baik.
2. Saya kurang selesa dengan pendapat yang bersifat negatif ini. Mungkin usaha golongan ini tidak menyerlah jikalau dibandingkan dengan zaman sebelum atau sejurus selepas kemerdekaan di mana perdebatan bermula di kampus memutik menjadi inisiatif-inisiatif yang bercambah menjadi badan-badan bantu diri dan sebagainya. Namun, usaha golongan muda hari ini kekal wujud dalam bentuk berbeza. Dalam era globalisasi dan kecanggihan teknologi, golongan muda dapat menyatukan tenaga menerusi alam siber dengan kemudahan-kemudahan seperti MSN, ICQ dan e-mel.
3. Walaupun usaha golongan muda di Singapura, dan juga mereka yang tidak menetap di Singapura pada ketika ini mungkin tidak terserlah, namun kami masih menitik beratkan masalah masyarakat. Ini dapat dilihat apabila ramai warga muda Singapura yang belajar di luar negeri sempat memulakan inisiatif mengumpul dana bagi 'Courage Fund' di kampus masing-masing tahun lalu. Ia merupakan isyarat yang menunjukkan bahawa kami juga turut memikul tanggung-jawab negara walaupun kini merantau di negeri orang.
KEWAJIBAN WARGA MUDA MELAYU ISLAM SINGAPURA
4. Tahun ini, masyarakat Melayu berasa bangga dengan pencapaian pelajar-pelajar Melayu Islam yang telah meraih kelulusan cemerlang dari universiti-universiti tempatan. Namun begitu, masyarakat Melayu Islam tidak boleh mendabik dada . Soalan penting yang harus dikemukakan ialah sama ada ia sudah cukup untuk menunjukkan bahawa secara menyeluruhnya masyarakat Melayu sudah berjaya? Pada hakikatnya kita terus dicabar dengan berbagai masalah. Antaranya jumlah anak-anak yang tidak bersekolah dan yang berisiko. Kita juga harus peka tentang masaalah bersifat sosio-ekonomi seperti kadar penceraian dan kadar pengangguran yang tinggi.
Good Afternoon Mr. Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen.
1. There are some childhood memories you never forget. My late grandfather used to spend countless hours making me memorize and then recite ‘pantun’/poetry helping me get over my fear of public speaking. In Sec. 3, after failing two years in a row, I decided to sleep in on the day of the qualifying round of an inter-school oratorical competition. I wanted to avoid the shame of failing to qualify for the third year in a row. My teacher called home and insisted I come. Not only did I finally qualify I also won second place. Cikgu Hayati made me realize that there are people around me who believe in me more than I did in myself.
2. We all have our personal reasons for our involvement in community (or politics). There are many young children filled with potential who aren’t as lucky as I have been. What drives me is the hope of touching just one child’s life and, hopefully, making a difference.
YOUTH INVOLVEMENT IN THE COMMUNITY
3. The post-independence generation has been criticized for being too individualistic. We know no loyalties and would quickly uproot if given the opportunity. We are not interested in serving the community and we are over-reliant on the leadership. I’m uncomfortable with this perception of youths who seem to be society’s plague and yet, paradoxically, its hope.
4. Do not be too quick to judge the efforts of youths and youth groups in nation building. Youth activism no longer exists only in its traditional forms- originating from ideological debates on campus and ultimately culminating in organizational and institutionalized efforts. Technology has introduced new, less visible forms of communication, consultation and coordination. Our debates have gone online and our coordination has turned to the wonders of e-mail, MSN and ICQ. Youth networks are able to link for joint action without building a physical formal institutional presence in the form of an organization or a society, but simply by starting an e-mailing list.
5. Whatever our personal reasons or motivations may be, do not doubt that Singaporean youths in Singapore, and even those who aren’t currently residing in Singapore, care. This is exemplified by the efforts of many Singaporean student groups studying overseas that initiated fund-raising events on their individual campuses for the Courage fund. They send a clear signal of their interest in being actively involved and engaged regardless of which part of the world they are currently in.
PROGRESS OF THE MALAY MUSLIM COMMUNITY
6. In your National Day Rally, PM, you touched on our progress. The Malay Muslim Community can take pride in our tradition of self-reliance, which has enabled the community to take leaps and bounds in education and in other areas over the years. This year the community highlighted its pride in the record number of first-class graduates from the local Universities. This is in addition to many that graduate from local and overseas universities every year. What PM alluded to very politely in his rally speech, I am compelled to drive home here. Can we be satisfied with these individual examples as indication of a progressive or successful community?
7. We should celebrate some of the progress of the Malay Community, which is not merely restricted to the number of first class graduates we produce, but also successful students from polytechnics, institutes of technical education and those who have made their mark in community, business and entrepreneurial initiatives. However, we must not forget that we also continue to face growing challenges. We cannot ignore the reality of a substantial percentage of out-of-school and at-risk youths, and other socio-economic problems that continue to plague the community such as the high divorce and unemployment rates. Let us not fall into the trap of perpetuating an imagined notion that the community has arrived. There is still very far to go. We should not deny the importance of focusing on our strengths. However, the question that begs to be asked is how do we best utilize our strengths to overcome our weaknesses?
A NEW BREED- RISK OF ELITISM AND POLARIZATION
8. PM, you spoke of a new breed of Malay-Muslim youths, a breed I have been told I belong to- highly educated, vocal and confident youths who are active in community. A group I feel has gradually shed the need to identify with an identity that harks back to a past that we do not remember, and the special privileges accorded to the identity.
9. However, we cannot assume homogeneity of the population of the Malay youths in Singapore. In looking towards the future, Malay-Muslim youths cannot assume, because we are exposed to the same education system and information sources that everyone is on the same wavelength and forget the diversity of opinions that exists, be it with the older generation or among our own peers. We must always be cautious of the dangers of alienating pockets of Malay-Muslim community and breeding elitism. Instead, we must work towards a convergence of opinions. Not by imposing our opinions, but by listening, rooting out the sources of insecurities and addressing the concerns in a genuine manner.
IT’S OUR PROBLEM
10. Once, when I told my mother I wanted to be a part of a radio children’s show she produced she said, ’No. I don’t want to be accused of giving my children special treatment. If you really want to you can write to my boss and ask his permission’. So I did. Her boss pointed out the grammatical mistakes her nine-year old made in her appeal, and told her to include me in the show. She taught me that I shouldn’t ever expect special favours from anyone, not even from my own mother.
11. We heard you loud and clear, when you said at a Youth Dialogue organized by Mendaki Club last year that, ‘Malay-Muslims have a place in remaking Singapore. It’s not enough for (us) to do well individually. (We’ve) got to contribute as a community and to the community, strengthen social cohesion because we face common threats and challenges.’ Although we see ourselves in the larger context, as Singaporeans, we also recognize that the effort of focusing on the progress of Malay Muslims in Singapore is an important one. PM, we do realize the challenges that we face and the responsibilities that we shoulder. I’m confident that the community has the guts and gumption, resourcefulness and creativity, to overcome these challenges.
12. We welcome your invitation to write the next chapter of the Singapore story and we will partner you in all your efforts. We only hope that you will lend us your support in the form of guidance and leadership. However, as empowered partners, we will continue, as Singaporeans have been known to do, to criticize. Our criticisms will be honest but constructive, offering possible strategies and solutions, for we too wish to progress and develop beyond the standards we have set for ourselves.