More activities with locals would help integrate new citizens

A man taking photos of documents at the National Citizenship Ceremony 2019.
A man taking photos of documents at the National Citizenship Ceremony 2019.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

As a born and bred Singaporean, I welcome the 149 new citizens who have committed themselves to become a part of our Singapore story (We, the new citizens of Singapore, Sept 1).

Yet, there are sometimes tensions between Singaporeans by birth and new citizens.

At the 2013 National Citizenship Ceremony, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said integration between new citizens and Singaporeans is important for building the "best home for all of us together".

So how can we encourage better integration of new citizens into Singapore?

The Government has been attempting to promote this.

In 2017, the Project Lapis Sagu film-making contest organised by the Ministry of Communications and Information sourced for ideas from the public on cultural diversity and social integration in Singapore.

A film anthology entitled Together Apart was subsequently produced and was screened at a local cinema. It remains accessible on YouTube today.

Nonetheless, more efforts are required for integration to take place in the long run.

First, new citizens have a duty to try to integrate into Singapore: two-thirds of Singaporeans and permanent residents said in a recent survey that immigrants are not doing enough to integrate into Singapore (Good to have different nationals as neighbours, say S'poreans, Aug 4). This is worrying.

All new citizens must undergo the Singapore Citizenship Journey programme, which consists of online modules on Singapore, including its history and culture; visits to places such as the Newater Visitor Centre; and community-sharing sessions to reflect on the journey towards citizenship, meet other new citizens, and learn to actively participate in the community.

Where in this initiative are shared common experiences with locals emphasised?

New citizens should be given activities to engage with locals in a natural way, for example, planning food tours with local Singaporeans and joining local performing arts groups.

Second, Singaporeans should understand that new citizens will add to the national identity, which is constantly evolving.

Singaporeans should also be made to understand that the Singaporean identity is not static but constantly evolving.

Too often, nation-building is often seen as a segment of history which occurred when our forefathers arrived here. I urge all to make efforts to keep Singapore a peaceful and open society with acceptance and appreciation of newcomers.

Alvona Loh Zi Hui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2019, with the headline 'More activities with locals would help integrate new citizens'. Print Edition | Subscribe