500 native and new Singaporeans tour the Southern Islands to promote interaction

It was all hands on deck early Sunday morning as both native and new Singaporeans went on a tour of the Southern Islands together, as part of an initiative to help new citizens integrate into society.

During the five-hour event, they visited six of the islands - Pulau Seringat, Lazarus, St John's, Pulau Tekukor and the Sisters' Islands - and listened to historical tales and folk stories told by guides.

The 500 participants - 380 locals and 120 new citizens - also had lunch on a seventh island, Kusu Island, and took part in an Instagram competition, which involved them taking pictures with other participants on the tour to help them make friends.

The event, which ended at about 2pm on Sunday afternoon, concluded with a visit of the Singapore Maritime Gallery at the Marina South Pier, where participants learnt more about Singapore's maritime history.

New Singapore citizen Tarani Sonia, 40, who was from Thailand, said: "I am very excited... as I have not visited the Southern Islands before. I am also enthusiastic about meeting fellow Singaporeans and getting to know them better."

Called the Sembawang GRC Integration Maritime Adventure, the event was organised by the Sembawang GRC Integration and Naturalisation (INC) Champions, a group of grassroots leaders and volunteers from Sembawang GRC who help new citizens integrate into the community.

The initiative aims to get participants to get to know and interact with one another during the event, the organiser said.

This will help the new citizens among them understand Singapore's norms and cultures and integrate into Singapore society, it added.

One of the members of the Sembawang INC Champions, Mr Edward Chua, said: "While the programme offers participants a rare glimpse into the Southern Islands' history and mythology, it will more importantly enhance interaction, engagement and collaboration between them."