Speaking at a citizenship ceremony in Cheng San Community Club yesterday (30 Aug), PM Lee has urged new Singapore citizens to actively integrate into Singapore society. He witnessed some 150 people become new Singaporeans at the ceremony.
At the same time, PM Lee asked Singaporeans to help their new fellow-countrymen fit in.
Over the weekend, 14 such ceremonies were held across the island, where close to 3,350 new citizens will get their pink identity cards and certificates of citizenship.
At the ceremony, PM Lee noted that changing citizenship is a major decision. “It’s not just weighing up the benefits and the costs rationally and doing a spreadsheet and say ‘Okay, now cost-benefit breaks even’, but committing your heart – what identity do you adopt, what values will you make your own, where will your loyalty lie,” Mr Lee said.
He acknowledged there will be some adjustments new Singaporeans will have to make because they all come from different cultures.
“You come from different cultures but you’ll have to get used to the Singapore culture. Embrace it but at the same time, bring what you have into the Singapore culture and enrich it, so that we become one big successful family,” he said.
But he said he is confident that their roots will grow year by year, just as it was with the older generations of Singaporeans.
“One day, I’m sure many of you will come to enjoy durians as well – that’s a test of being Singaporean,” he said to laughter from the audience.
Family of new citizens shows commitment to Singapore
The media also highlighted Rege Abhijit Suresh’s family of 3 who all became Singapore citizens. Mr Rege, 35, is from India while his wife Zlata Luneva, 33, is from Russia. They have a son, Vijay, 5.
Mr Rege, who has been living in Singapore since 1996 when he was in his teens, said he has adopted the Singapore way of life. He later met his wife in Japan. She came to Singapore in 2006 after her marriage. Their son Vijay was born in Singapore. All 3 got their pink IC and certificate of citizenship yesterday.
The decision to make Singapore home was not a very difficult one for them. Mr Rege said, “If we are going to settle down here, no point staying as a permanent resident. So we said ‘let’s get citizenship – for his future’. Also it makes more sense – from all perspectives, from education, and honestly from the National Service perspective, I think it’s a good thing that he goes in and gets some discipline in him.”
Agreeing, Mr Rege’s wife said, “I can’t wait to see him in his uniform.”
With regard to integrating into Singapore society, she said, “Even in my marriage, I’m married to an Indian, so Indian culture is different. So for me, if I can adapt to my husband, I can adapt to the culture in Singapore… I like Yakun toast, I like Indian food, I like Chinese food, there’s nothing I don’t like in Singapore.”
Mr Rege advised those new to Singapore to learn from the locals if they want to make Singapore home. He said, “As outsiders, we need to make the effort, and not expect people to come to us.”
Mr Rege owns an engineering company while his wife is an assistant manager at a health-care company.
While the media has portrayed a new citizen family showing rather good commitment to Singapore, especially taking up Singapore citizenship on their son’s behalf, thereby making him liable for National Service, the same cannot be said for other new citizens.
Another new citizen Raj
A good example is former Indian national and new Singapore citizen Raj. During an interview with TOC [Link], Raj revealed that only he in the family has converted to Singapore citizenship. His wife and daughter remain as PRs and his son is on a student pass.
Raj said that if his son was a PR, he would need to serve NS. He preferred to “let his son decide if he wanted to put his roots down in Singapore or go back to India when he turns 21″.
The benefit of Raj having his son on a student pass is that his son can always work in Singapore later as a “foreign talent” and eventually become a PR himself. He will not be considered a second-generation PR since he was not sponsored by his parents in the first place. A second-generation PR who gives up his PR is barred from working or studying in Singapore.
Raj said, “We have friends who are from India as well as Singapore. My kids must grow up knowing their roots and our Indian culture, so we purposely go out of the way to stay connected with our friends from India, especially those from our own hometown.”
“Living and adjusting to so many different races of people is a very big challenge,” he added.
Raj chose to let his children study in the Global Indian International School instead of a local school.
In the case of Raj, instead of embracing the Singapore culture like a new citizen should, Raj even wants his kids to grow up knowing their roots in India. That being the case, it is not known why he was granted Singapore citizenship in the first place.
Will Raj, who is Singaporean now, come to enjoy durians one day – something PM Lee is so sure of regarding new citizens?
What do you think?