The Ministry of Finance (MOF) public relations team has admitted it has absolutely no idea how to explain Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s exhortation for Singapore to be more like Sang Kancil. During his Budget Speech, the Prime Minister (PM)-in-waiting called on Singaporeans to draw on the “Singaporean DNA” of openness, multi-culturalism and self-determination to become “like Sang Kancil, the small but quick-witted mousedeer”, referring to the character of Malay folklore which uses quick thinking to triumph over bigger animals.
MOF spokesperson Isnah Haziqah was exasperated by the accompanying confusion. “I know future PM is trying to appeal to the Malay community, but seriously, apart from us and the folks who read The Art of Charlie Chan, who knows what Sang Kancil is? Also, Sang Kancil is a lesser mousedeer. Does he want Singapore to be lesser, or a mouse, or a deer? I only hope this isn’t his keechiu moment.”
Hanisah Helmy, a professor of political history at NUS, thought the reference could have been a shrewd move. “The most obvious answer is that he’s appealing to the Malay community. But on a personal level, remember that the late Lee Kuan Yew said Heng’s weakness is that he is not of a large bulk, which makes a difference in a mass rally. Perhaps the Minister is trying to suggest that, for Singapore to be a small and quick-witted country, it needs a small but quick-witted Prime Minister,” she explained. “Honestly, I thought there were bigger surprises in the speech. The last time a PM was so interested in Singaporean DNA, we tried to sterilize the poor.”
Sources report that officials in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) are frantically using up SkillsFuture credits to take night classes in indigenous folklore, flora, and fauna. “PM Lee is bad enough – do you know how much money I’ve spent learning to code Sudoku solvers and explain eigen vectors since I took this job?” complained one anonymous staffer. “Now I’ve got to learn not only about Sang Nila Utama, but all his magical animal friends too! Things were easier when our history started with some white guy stepping off a boat.”
At press time, Minister for Trade and Industry and former Army scholar Chan Chun Sing was busy telling reporters about how he once caught and ate a lesser mousedeer while in Brunei during OCS. “And,” he said, “I’d happily do it all over again.”