By Clement Tan/Red Sports, with additional reporting by Erwin Wong
National Stadium, Friday, April 28, 2017 — As she stood over the starting block amid the cacophony of screams, Elizabeth-Ann Tan looked straight ahead, arms akimbo, focused on the task at hand. There were the nerves, but she was mostly visualising the century sprint she’s about to run: the start that was always problematic for her, her shoulders, her arm swing, her stride rhythm.
The time Elizabeth had in mind: the 12.44 seconds she ran at a meet in Perth in March. She ran 12.71s in the semi-finals last week to break the electronically timed C Division girls record of 12.74s that Nur Izlyn Bte Zaini set in 2012 while representing Singapore Sports School. To go anywhere near 12.44s would mean bettering the 12.6s hand-timed record set in 1993 by Lim Joo Lee, then of Raffles Girls’ School.
“I was very, very nervous,” said Elizabeth, a Nanyang Girls’ High School secondary two student. “It was a bit more difficult to focus here than at Bishan Stadium because of the bigger crowd and the place, it’s quite scary though the adrenaline also pushed me along.”
She ended up crossing the finish line in the C girls 100m final in 12.41s, run with a slight tailwind of 0.1 metre/second. Teammate Bernice Liew, who finished second in a close 200m final last week, again claimed the silver in a personal best 12.72s. Both girls later combined to win gold for Nanyang Girls’ in the 4 by 100m relay.
At a time when right-wing nationalism is seeing a resurgence globally, Singapore’s move to ensure minority representation may seem almost progressive in comparison.
The city-state could soon have its first female Muslim president, after the government rubber-stamped changes last week that would see only the country’s Malay, Muslim minority—making up about 15% of its 3.9 million resident citizens—eligible to stand at September’s election to choose its head of state, a largely ceremonial role.
But since Singapore gained independence from Malaysia in 1965, the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has in fact relied on a plethora of race-based innovations to maintain racial harmony between its majority Chinese population, and the minority Malay-Muslim and Indian ethnic groups. The latest move to designate that the president must be a Muslim is seen as another one of these measures.
“The government believes they have to engineer multiracialism,” said Eugene Tan, associate professor of law at Singapore Management University. “They regard the election of a minority as head of state as an important testament of Singapore’s nation-building journey. Attaining that end justifies the means.”
TANKING economy, check; struggling newspaper industry, check; few opportunities for fresh young talent, check.
So why would any fresh graduate choose to quadruple his student debt by going straight into graduate journalism school, only to enter an industry that is seemingly devoid of opportunities?
Well, I did. My friends thought I was insane, but I could not imagine doing anything else. I guess I also wanted to attend Columbia Journalism School because the idea of hazarding a calculated risk appealed to me.
What makes a country a home? Is it emotional ties or pure economic self-interest?
Linda Lim posed this question in a Straits Times article published June 19 and it has lingered in my mind ever since, particularly at the Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum held Aug. 31 at the NUS Theatrette.
Singapore’s manpower minister, Ng Eng Hen was the minister in attendance as he suggested how the Singapore graduate can “stand tall in a shrinking world”. He talked about the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the Singapore graduate and suggested we have to improve if we were to take advantage of future opportunities in an increasingly globalised world.
It all sounded so familiar. Ng cached his argument in an unmistakable economic paradigm that has come to characterize the PAP government. But should the only logic that prevails on most occasions be economic in a home? While it is important to embrace this global human flow, is Singapore embracing this at the risk of alienating Singaporeans?