The Straits Times
Published on Feb 18, 2013

Why I am a Singaporean


I WAS born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), lived in Britain and Sierra Leone (West Africa), came to Singapore in the 1970s as an economic migrant and then became a Singaporean.

Whenever I wonder why I am a Singaporean, the late Mr S. Rajaratnam's assurance resonates with me. 

He said: "There are many parts of the world where to be a minority is to be resented and be oppressed. In the kind of Singapore we are creating, there are no majorities and minorities but simply good men and bad men, with good men, whatever their race, language and religion, invariably triumphing over the bad men, whatever their race, language and religion."

I am proud to be a Singaporean because the Government:

As a result, my family also prospered in tandem with Singapore; and

And, while religious groups practise their faiths freely, none of them or their representatives is allowed to interfere in the functioning of the Government or to proselytise. 

Begging is illegal in Singapore and yet no citizens are deprived of food, clothing or shelter - there are many government-backed charities and voluntary organisations to look after the less fortunate.

While I am free to move around in Singapore at any time without being anxious

about my safety and security (barring accidents), I am not discriminated against, resented or oppressed by the Government or my fellow Singaporeans because my mother tongue is Tamil, I am dark-skinned and not a "born and bred Singaporean".

Any attempt to propagate the false idea that a "born and bred Singaporean" is superior to a Singaporean by choice is retrogressive, contradictory to the principle of meritocracy and, above all, undermines the Singapore Pledge.

I strongly believe that the immigrants who become Singaporeans will help to enlarge the secular space in Singapore so that all ethnic and religious groups can easily adopt the attitude of behaving with self-respect and respect for others.

Sabaratnam Ratnakumar