Racism does exist in Singapore, just like in most other multi-racial societies, Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam said during a 24-minute BBC podcast interview in response to questions by British journalist and presenter Stephen Sackur.
He was asked on the BBC current affairs show Hardtalk, which was aired on June 29, if there was "routine, systemic discrimination" that targets the Malays and Indians in Singapore.
HardTalk has been touted as an interview format that pulls little punches, and its previous guests have included Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, as well as the late Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first prime minister.
PM Lee last sat down with Sackur in a Hardtalk interview in 2017, when he spoke about how Singapore is navigating a wide range of international and domestic issues in uncertain times.
How realistic for a minority to be Singapore PM?
In response to a question regarding how realistic it is for a minority to be prime minister of Singapore, Shanmugam shot back: "Leaving me aside, I don't think it is accurate to say an Indian cannot be a prime minister, or a Malay cannot be a prime minister."
"How many non-white prime ministers have there been in the United Kingdom? So, let's get real. Race does matter in politics."
There is no non-white prime ministers among the 55 prime ministers in the history of the UK.
Here's a transcript of Shanmugam's response to questions on race in Singapore.
Stephen Sackur: I see in The Economist magazine, which has some influence, it referred to a rising tide of ugliness with regard to racial discrimination in Singapore, which it said is provoking a reckoning over race. Now, as Home Affairs Minister, are you worried about the evidence presented – of routine systemic, discrimination particularly against Malay people in Singapore, and to a certain extent, Indian people as well?
Minister: Again, you know, there are various assumptions, that there is routine discrimina...