A newly formed SG50 coordination committee will lead the Malay/Muslim community's efforts to raise funds for the Yusof Ishak Professorship in Social Sciences.
The committee, whose main role is to coordinate how the community can contribute to celebrating Singapore's 50th anniversary next year, aims to hit a target of $6 million, which includes matching government grants of up to 11/2 times the donated sum.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim revealed this yesterday, as he hosted his first Hari Raya lunch for about 200 Malay/Muslim professionals. Speaking of the fund-raising efforts, he told reporters that it will be led by the community "as a gift to the nation".
Earlier, he told guests: "The perception has always been that we are a community that's always receiving. It's about time that we establish this perception that we are a community that can also contribute. I think the time has come to think about how we can respond to national challenges."
The Yusof Ishak Professorship will be started at the National University of Singapore (NUS) to enhance research in multi-ethnicity and multiculturalism. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced it at the National Day Rally as a way to honour Singapore's first president for his contributions.
The SG50 committee is expected to be about 20-strong. It is headed by Mr Sallim Abdul Kadir, chairman of Suara Musyawarah, which was set up in 2012 to get feedback on Malay/Muslim community concerns.
Mr Sallim said its fund-raising sub-committee will first discuss with NUS what it can do before approaching others, not just those in the Malay/Muslim community, to source for funds.
"I do believe the nation recognises what our late president has done, and that will make our job easier," he said.
No timeline has been set, but he wants to seek donations "while the memory is fresh", and established groups like the Shaw Foundation may be approached.
Dr Yaacob also said yesterday that the SG50 committee will have two deputies: Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Zahidi Abdul Rahman and Malay Heritage Foundation chair Zuraidah Abdullah, who can bring on board their expertise in business and culture.
The committee is helmed by veterans, but its efforts are also a way to empower youth, he said.
"I think younger Malays must see this not just as an opportunity, but also a responsibility they can take on to shape the future of Singapore," Dr Yaacob said.
The committee can be a platform for them to offer ideas about the future, he added.
At the lunch, Dr Yaacob also announced that needy Malay students at SIM University can now benefit from self-help group Mendaki's Tertiary Tuition Fee Subsidy, adding that he hoped the scheme "will help and encourage more of our young people to pursue their passions and interests through tertiary education".