Election after election, in every manifesto since 2006, the Workers’ Party has called for the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) to be abolished – with immediate effect.
Various reasons were put forth including that the EIP hurts the minorities who had to sell their flats at a lower price, a point Mr Pritam Singh reiterated in a Facebook post when he responded to Finance Minister Lawrence Wong’s speech on Race and Racism made at the IPS-RSIS forum.
In that Facebook post, he said minorities have had to lower the price of their flats in order to effect a sale. They ‘bear a direct and real financial burden in the name of the EIP’.
What was left unsaid was that the flat would be bought by another minority paying the lower price. This would then translate into a direct and real financial benefit for that minority in the name of EIP.
Mr Singh was wrong to assume that the EIP affected only the minority seller. A Chinese seller could also find himself in the position where he had to sell his flat only to a minority. He too may then have to lower his price in order to effect a sale.
He has since clarified in Parliament that his definition of ‘minority’ includes the majority Chinese.
Change in the WP’s position on the EIP
While the WP has made the call in manifesto after manifesto since 2006 for the EIP to be abolished, the party has never articulated this position in Parliament.
That call, made outside Parliament, for the EIP to be immediately abolished, took a radical change on 5 July in Parliament.
National Development Minister Desmond Lee had asked the Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh to clarify Workers’ Party’s position on the EIP given that the party has never stated their position on the EIP in Parliament, and given the recent spate of racist incidents (here, here, here, here, and here) that had caused much angst in society.
Does Workers’ Party still take the stand that EIP should be abolished? Does Workers’ Party believe that Singapore has achieved a ‘high level’ of multiracial integration given the recent spate of racist incidents that has caused much disturbance?
Mr Singh’s response was that their position as stated in their manifesto was a philosophical position. The EIP is still needed. Rather than abolish it, the WP was calling for a revisit of the policy to review it.
You can watch the exchange here:
A clear change in political position by WP
As National Development Minister Desmond Lee noted,
“The Workers’ Party’s position today in 2021 is that we still need the EIP (as) we work towards a race-blind society and we endeavour to reach there. And at some point, hopefully, we’ll not need the EIP. So that is a clear change in political position.”
Why is the Ethnic Integration Policy still relevant?
As National Development Minister Desmond Lee elaborated:
Because we want our void decks, playgrounds and hawker centres to be places where we meet and get to know neighbours from other races.
Because we want our children to grow up with children of different races.
Because we want to avoid situations where racial segregation in housing leads to inter-generational inequality and deep-seated racial tensions.
Because that is how we press on towards our ideal of a cohesive and multiracial Singapore.