'Boost ties between locals and foreigners'

Mr Ganesh Kalyanam (left) is part of the inter-polytechnic international student integration working group and director of the office of student and graduate affairs at Republic Polytechnic. He is seen here with student Rusydi. The group was one of 1
Mr Ganesh Kalyanam (left) is part of the inter-polytechnic international student integration working group and director of the office of student and graduate affairs at Republic Polytechnic. He is seen here with student Rusydi. The group was one of 17 winners honoured by the National Integration Council.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Minister makes call amid backdrop of rising anti-immigration sentiments globally

Singapore is not immune to the anti-immigration rhetoric which has been on the rise across the globe.

Highlighting how fault lines have been exposed by Brexit and the recent US presidential election, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu yesterday said the combination of developments "may cause local-foreigner sentiments to sour" and strain social cohesion in Singapore.

She urged individuals and groups to step forward and promote integration "to demonstrate that we have the determination and resilience to keep Singapore cohesive and harmonious even as the external environment has become more challenging".

Ms Fu was speaking at the inaugural National Integration Council's awards and appreciation dinner at Furama RiverFront Hotel, where 17 awards were given out to individuals and organisations who have contributed significantly to integration. Ms Fu is chairman of the council.

Among the winners was an inter-polytechnic international student integration working group. In 2013, it launched a programme across Singapore's five polytechnics which has since identified more than 400 integration ambassadors. The ambassadors underwent a two-day programme called "Diversity.Inclusion.You" to transform them into "positive opinion multipliers" within their schools and spheres of influence.

One of the ambassadors, a Year 2 applied science student at Republic Polytechnic, Mr Muhammad Noor Rusydi Rasib, 22, said that the programme encouraged students to let go of stereotypes.

He said: "If you allow yourself to get to know them as individuals, you will realise that there might actually be some common areas of interest."

The other winners include students from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University who had taken a stand against anti-foreigner sentiments through video interviews and blog posts, via a campaign called AnOther Angle.

Production company Big Red Button also brought together more than 1,000 people from diverse backgrounds in the Central Business District over four Mondays to have conversations on childhood memories and their aspirations over a cup of coffee or tea.

Ms Fu praised the winners' efforts, and added that their continued support is important as integration takes time and needs to be sustained as the increasing diversity in Singapore society brings new social complexities.

She said that Singapore's multicultural identity did not happen overnight but was "conscientiously forged by many people over decades of nation building".

"This effort must continue for effective integration and social harmony to be achieved," she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2016, with the headline ''Boost ties between locals and foreigners''. Print Edition | Subscribe