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CMIOs debating the Ethnic Integration Policy

Kirsten Han
Kirsten Han
4 min read

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One year ago today, Singaporeans went to the polls and defied predictions of a “flight to safety” big win for the People’s Action Party in the general election. Yesterday, I went to Grassroots Book Room and got myself a copy of Voting in a Time of Change, published by Ethos Books. Looking forward to learning from the essays in the chunky volume!


Talking about race in Parliament

The Ethnic Integration Policy got some time in Parliament this past week. Unsurprisingly, the PAP are defending it by saying that it’s necessary to prevent racial enclaves and segregation. The Workers’ Party position is to eventually abolish it, but not before we become “race neutral”. Teo Chee Hean wasn’t planning on saying something but he’s and older man so he couldn’t help himself:

Looking at the PAP’s comments about the EIP, I wasn’t the only one wondering how much they have actually experienced of HDB life. They seem to be overestimating the amount of interaction that neighbours have with one another, especially in today’s Singapore. I remember meeting and playing with my neighbours more as a kid, but things changed quite a lot once they started upgrading the HDB blocks to add lifts on every floor, and got rid of common corridors. While the EIP does maintain a particular mix of racial groups in a HDB block, whether people are actually talking to each other and learning to accept diversity is a completely different matter.

The PAP also defended the CMIO (Chinese, Malay, Indian, Others) model. Edwin Tong was like, “Y’all WP people say you want to abolish CMIO, but then how come every parliamentary sitting you ask for data broken down by race hah?” Pritam's answer was basically, "Y'all keep using CMIO to categorise data so we have to ask liddat lah!"

But there are more meaningful categorisations that we can be using instead of race—socio-economic status is one. As has been pointed out many times before, many of the issues we talk about as race issues would probably be better off discussed as class issues. This is not to say that there is zero value in disaggregating data by race—it could be very handy to have this data to cross-reference against others—but we very often use it as the most important, if not only, categorisation.

Here’s a good op-ed to read, about how Singapore is risking structural lag when we hold on to things like CMIO and the EIP even as the world changes around us.

Then there was some talk about CECA, particularly since various MPs have filed questions trying to get data. Not all data can be got at, though; the government has said that they won’t disclose a breakdown of PRs by nationality due to “sensitivities”. The government did, however, state that only 500 out of 4,200 intra-corporate transferees came to Singapore via CECA in 2020. See lah see lah, if you say earlier, maybe people might not have got so angry and we could have nipped the CECA anger in the bud, Pritam Singh pointed out (I’m not quoting him verbatim, obviously).

Yah, is true we can quell falsehoods if we release information, agreed Ong Ye Kung. Does this mean we can have a Freedom of Information Act?

via GIPHY


Three cheers for M Ravi

Human rights lawyer M Ravi has had a busy time of late, representing bus drivers and death row inmates.

Since 13 SBS bus drivers won leave to transfer their case from the State Courts to the High Court, the courts have ordered SBS Transit to pay them $7,000 in costs. The drivers are suing the company over overtime pay.

13 death-row inmates, also represented by M Ravi, have also filed a civil case asking the High Court to state that the Attorney-General’s Chambers and Singapore Prison Service acted unlawfully when the prisoners’ private correspondence was forwarded from the prison to the AGC without consent. (Why more people aren’t finding this outrageous is something I’ve been grappling with for months.)

I’ve worked with Ravi a lot as an anti-death penalty activist; his courage and willingness to go above and beyond for his clients and their human rights has literally been life-saving. The Transformative Justice Collective is currently running a fundraiser to help him pay off a fine and costs—please contribute if you can here.

Separately, if you would like to contribute to a running fund for death row inmates, incarcerated people, and their families (to pay for things like legal costs/filing fees, or other emergency support needs), you can donate here—please remember to select “TJC’s Support Fund” via the drop-down menu!


Got some more…

Raeesah Khan gave an important speech about the need for sexuality education. We need better sex ed to teach young people about consent, body safety, and what options are available when they encounter sexual violence.

The editor-in-chief of The Parrot Review had to go lim kopi with the police this past week. The Parrot Review had previously published a story about alleged sexual assault in NUS. The university then launched an investigation into the victim, and questioned The Parrot Review in relation to this case. In the course of this investigation, they realised that the NUS investigator was a former police officer who’d done jail time for forging an alleged sexual assault victim’s testimony. After bringing this to light, they were reported under the Protection from Harassment Act and the police have launched an investigation. 😕

NEA thought it would be a good time to raise the rent for some hawkers. They say the renewal of tenancy is based on prevailing market rates, as if it isn't a truly, truly terrible time for hawkers now. Here's a good video to sum up all our feelings:


🥬 A friend in Cambodia is raising funds to provide food packages for factory workers whose livelihoods have been affected by Covid-19. You can contribute here:


Thank you for reading! Feel free to forward this on to anyone you think might be interested. 🙏🏼 Once again, a reminder that becoming a Milo Peng Funder is an awesome thing to do! You can also make a one-off contribution via my Ko-Fi page.

Weekly Wraps

Kirsten Han

A Singaporean independent journalist, activist, and cat slave.