Ukraine-Russia conflict presents a reality check for S'pore on her neighbour

Mar 02, 2022 | 🚀 Fathership
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday (Feb 21), referred to Ukraine as "a colony" in a hourlong televised address.

“Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space,” he said, per Kremlin’s official translation. “Since time immemorial, the people living in the south-west of what has historically been Russian land have called themselves Russians.” Three days later on Feb 24, 2022, Putin began a full-scale attack on Ukraine.

Putin questions the historical formation of the modern Ukranian state

Putin believes that Ukrainians, Belarusians and Russians are one people, bound by shared history and culture. But he also is aware that they have become separate states recognised in international law and by Russian governments as well.

At the same time, he questions the historical formation of the modern Ukrainian state, which he says was the tragic product of decisions by former Russian leaders Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev.

He also questions the sovereignty and distinctive nation-ness of Ukraine. While he promotes national identity in Russia, he denigrates the growing sense of nation-ness in Ukraine.

Parallels to Malaysia-Singapore history

In a post on Twitter, reporter Hazi Azmi implied that certain quarters in Malaysia may also hold the same viewpoint as Putin.

"There are Malays, who view that they have lost the island, not necessarily to the Republic of Singapore, but to the Chinese", he said.

Hadi is a Kuala Lumpur-based journalist for the South China Morning Post. As a disclaimer, Hadi reiterated that "there is no imminent plan" for Singapore-Malaysia conflict ala Ukraine-Russia, but that such thinking "could be exploited as Malaysia slides further to the right."

Malaysia's growing far right movement

Hadi's note about Malaysia sliding "further to the right" is not without basis.

The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), an Islamist and Malay nationalist political party, has seen an unprecendented rise in party memberships - with over 1 million members - and is credited with perpetuating far right idealogy of Malay-Muslim supremacy.

Putin believes that if Ukraine was to join NATO with the backing of European states, it would serve as a direct threat to the security of Russia.

Similarly, PAS leadership believes the security of Malay-Muslim supremacy would falter if ethnic minorities gained power, especially with the backing of "Western colonialists".

Pictured: This file photo shows a supporter of the Pan-Malaysia Islamic party (PAS) looking on during election nomination day in Pekan on 28 April, 2018. (Mohd Rasfan / AFP Photo)

PAS goal of Malay-Muslim supremacy is not only limited to Malaysia.

According to intelligence sources, PAS believes that states in the Malay archipelago - including Singapore - are Malay land, and that it is their spiritual duty to islamisise these lands.

If such an idealogy is allowed to fester, Singapore risks having an existential threat. As PAS grow stronger politically, the chance of them rising up to the upper ranks in government is high. Who's to say that someone from PAS will have no shot at being the Minister of Defence and go all trigger-happy on her neighbour just to fulfill a spiritual duty?

Afterall, Malaysians elected a clown to serve as the Minister of Defence in the 2018 elections.

PAS political strategy has been to fit into the mainstream, and then changing the system from within, with the hope that they can expedite the Islamisation of Malaysia and get ethnic minorities opposed to such idealogy to obediently bow to its needs and wants.

If their mission for Malaysia is complete, is it far-fetched to assume that PAS would pull the same stunt against Singapore?

Ukraine-Russia conflict a reality check for SIngapore

The Ukraine-Russia conflict serves as a reality check for Singapore, in that we cannot depend on others, or even our neighbours for our security.

In Parliament earlier on Monday (Feb 28), Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan spoke about the importance of National Service and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

"We must never lose the ability to defend and look after ourselves. This is why Singapore has invested consistently to build up a credible and strong SAF, and to maintain National Service as a fundamental element of our nationhood", he said.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also highlighted the importance of national defence in a Facebook post on Monday (Feb 28).

"The lessons for us, then and now, are stark. When treaties and diplomacy fail, we cannot rely on others to protect us,” Lee said.

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This commentator thinks MCI ad should not have featured poor Malays

May 12, 2022 | 🚀 Fathership
A Hari Raya advertisement by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) was 'cancelled' by certain netizens online for depicting lower income Malays according to reality.

"Message for Syawal", a two-and-a-half-minute video published last month (Apr 30) captures moments in the life of a low-income Malay family living in a rental flat.


Pictured: Screenshot from MCI video "Message for Syawal"

The video, which is peppered with Malay proverbs, shows the family moving out of their rental flat to a new home several years later where they celebrate Hari Raya.

The father of the family works as a mover while the mother is a housewife.

Their young son, Syawal, skips school to earn extra income for his family before a teacher flags his absence from school to his parents.

The mother in the video later decides to return to work to alleviate her family’s financial difficulties while the father gets a new job.

Pictured: Screenshot from MCI video "Message for Syawal"

Why some netizens are outraged

The video sparked backlash online, with some viewers saying that it contained stereotypes about the Malay community.

The stereotypes:
  • The father works as a mover - commonly perceived to be a low-income job
  • The mother is jobless
  • The son plays truant
  • The family lives in a rental flat for low-income earners

Commentator implied that poor Malays shouldn't be portrayed in public to prevent stereotypes

Pictured: Screenshot from Homeground Asia video

A video commentary by The Homeground Asia went further by criticizing how the video propagates the narrative that Malays are poor and lazy, and that the ministry should have created a video that is more relatable to both the less fortunate and the more affluent Malays.

Adi Rahman, one of the interviewees in the video went further by making sweeping assumptions that the ministry lacked cultural intelligence and did not consult the community on the narrative.

Ironically, in talking about inclusivity, Adi implied that the realities of poor Malays should not be shown in public.

For example, his rationale suggested that the video contained characters (the mover, jobless mother and the son who skips school) that contribute to the problem of other races seeing the Malays in a stereotypical and reductive light.

In other words, show the good stuff but not the reality.

Adi even accused the ministry for not consulting the Malays in the vetting of the video narrative.

His accusations were without merit, however, when the Ministry said in a statement (Apr 30) that Malay-Muslim viewers - presumably a focus group - had seen the video prior to its release, and perceived the story to be heart-warming, although some expressed reservations.

Pictured: Adi Rahman - one of the commentators in Homeground Asia video

Stereotyping or masking reality?

The ministry said last month (Apr 30) the video was meant to show "a family’s journey of resilience in facing challenging circumstances and how mutual support and encouragement could nurture the process”.

Other netizens felt it was an overreaction and that low-income families shouldn't be dehumanized in a way that they are removed from the conversation. They felt that the video was a call-to-action for those from the underprivileged to strive for a better life through hard work and seeking help that's already available.

The only missed opportunity in the MCI video was perhaps the suggestion that Malays in low income families living in a rental flat could not celebrate Hari Raya unless they get a flat on their own.

But of course, like Homeground Asia, that is also a sweeping assumption.