Singapore’s vision of a multiracial society is enshrined in the national pledge: “One united people regardless of race, language or religion.” Even though Singapore has made significant progress in realising this vision, the recent general election put the spotlight on long-held assumptions about race and language in politics. Younger voters signalled greater openness towards discussing such issues in a way that older generations would have considered taboo or polarising. The Raeesah Khan incident highlighted how younger Singaporeans, in particular, did not like how the Government came down hard on those who asked difficult questions – rightly or wrongly – about whether certain races are treated differently.
The authorities have signalled a willingness to engage in more of these difficult conversations. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an e-rally that while the country has emphasised racial tolerance and harmony so far, it can do better and go beyond that; while Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said it is clear the younger generation takes a different approach to race relations, and there has to be a framework that takes into account a suitable approach and the trade-offs. Younger party candidates also pointed out that some of the ideas being talked about now arose because of the time that young people are spending online consuming information from Western countries.