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Government’s secular stand on issue of wearing tudungs with public service uniforms has been ‘consistently clear’: Masagos

Mar 11, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

SINGAPORE: The public service's policy on uniforms cannot be tilted towards any particular religious beliefs, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli on Monday (Mar 8) as he responded to a suggestion by MP Faisal Manap (WP-Aljunied) to allow Muslim nurses to wear the tudung as part of their uniform.

Mr Faisal had raised the issue during his Budget debate speech on Feb 24, saying that the rule barring Muslim women from wearing the headscarf with their uniform has deterred some from taking up nursing.

On Monday, Mr Masagos noted the contributions of Muslim women to the nation and society, but said the Government's secular stand has been “consistently clear” when it comes to policymaking.

“This is our approach when dealing even-handedly with requests from different religious groups, especially when it affects our common spaces,” he said in Parliament.

Explaining why the uniform policy in the public service cannot be tilted towards any religious belief, Mr Masagos said that in services that play a critical role in society, the uniform is a "visible sign that service is rendered equally regardless of race or religion".

"Allowing tudungs will raise a very visible religious marker that identifies every tudung-wearing female nurse or uniform officer as a Muslim. This has significant implications," he added.

"We don't want patients to prefer or not prefer to be served by a Muslim nurse, nor do we want people to think that public security is being enforced by a Muslim or non-Muslim officer.

"This is what makes the decision difficult and sensitive."

Any government concession to religious pressure could cause other groups to adopt a similar aggressive posture, and race and religion will become increasingly polarising, Mr Masagos said.

“This will harm all of us, especially the minority community," he added.

CLOSED-DOOR DISCUSSIONS

This is why the People’s Action Party (PAP) MPs and the Government have, after discussion, decided to take the approach of “careful closed-door discussions”, as they understand the “complexity and sensitivity” of the issue, said Mr Masagos, who is also Minister for Social and Family Development.

He added that the Government previously engaged unions, religious teachers and “respected members of the community”, who “understand why (the Government) has adopted (its) current approach” on uniforms in the public service.

While expressing his empathy for Muslim women torn between their religious and professional duties, Mr Masagos said: "However, workplaces are an important part of the common experience that we share with Singaporeans, and we must not withdraw from them.

"As a community, we have been adept at making adaptations and adjustments, while at the same time being able to practise our religion."

Acknowledging that Mr Faisal might not agree with this approach, Mr Masagos said that the heart of the Government’s approach is to “protect the precious harmony” built in Singapore over the years.

“This desire to protect racial and religious harmony is aligned with Islamic teaching … Hence, we must be respectful of the secular nature of our state and maintain our common space, even as we look for outcomes that will fulfil the aspirations of our community,” he said.

PSP's Tan Cheng Bock voted out as Sec-Gen after alleged party infighting

Apr 01, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

Former Republic of Singapore Air Force colonel Francis Yuen has been appointed secretary-general of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), taking over from party founder Tan Cheng Bock.

Dr Tan, 80, has become party chairman. This was announced by the PSP on Thursday (April 1), after its central executive committee (CEC) met on Wednesday.

In a Facebook post, PSP Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai said Mr Yuen was the committee's unanimous choice to "lead PSP to the next level".

"Francis will lead and galvanise the party while (Dr Tan) concentrates on strengthening external support for PSP," he wrote.

Chairman role is basically a glorified flower pot

In many organisations around the world, the Secretary-General position has the authority to make all the decisions of running the organisation - or party. The Chairman generally does not have any more power pe se than any other voting member of the Executive Committee, except the power to run board meetings.

Comparatively, the Secretary-General is like the Chief Executive Officer of the company.

For example, the People's Action Party chairman is Gan Kim Yong while the Secretary-General is Lee Hsien Loong.

Party infighting?

The change comes amid reports of a rift in the party. An online news site, the RedWire Times, said in March that some party cadres have demanded for Dr Tan to step down as secretary-general, and allow for "more talented rising stars" to take over.

Commenting on the Redwire Times report, PSP member Kumaran Pillai said the new CEC line-up is in no way a reflection of any disagreement over the leadership of the party. Rather, Mr Yuen assuming the secretary-general role is part of a planned transition, he added.

“When Dr Tan started the party, he said he will mentor someone younger, and he hasn’t deviated from his original mission. People shouldn’t be reading too much into it.”

Mr Pillai added that he had a long dialogue with the party cadre who was quoted anonymously by Redwire Times as saying that some cadres are mustering support to demand for Dr Tan to step down from his post.

“His intention is not to stage a coup within the party. I think people have misinterpreted it and misunderstood what he said, sometimes it's like playing broken telephone, you say one thing and by the time you get to the last person, the whole story gets distorted along the way... there’s no infighting, there's no malice,” he said.

In other words, the flower pot needs watering.