Step up integration of new citizens to avoid identity crisis

A recent survey on ethnic identity showed that a sense of Singaporean identity was developing evenly among all races (Emerging sense of S'porean identity independent of ethnic heritage; Nov 15).

We may derive that the development of national identity and the promotion of ethnic heritage - such as language, values and customs - are not incompatible. In fact, all races here promote patriotism and respect our unique multiracial society.

Equally important, we have in place systems that protect ethnic heritage. Still, we should not take things for granted.

First, we should keep educating people on multiracial and multi-heritage issues. Second, we should tackle new problems that result from the continual inflow of immigrants and foreign workers. Third, we should do more to integrate ourselves as one people through actions and activities.

Embracing new citizens and foreigners here is a very challenging task. We have to slowly remove the psychological and physical obstacles barring us from closer contact and building friendship and trust.

We need over 50,000 babies a year to replace our population, but we have only slightly over 30,000 babies yearly. Should we lag in our efforts to integrate new citizens, the national identity issue may well turn into a crisis decades later.

The Government alone cannot handle the gigantic task. Companies, bosses, co-workers, trade unions, clan and religious associations, schools, community centres as well as common citizens should all play a part.

In national and community events, let us make sure new citizens are invited or represented. Participation in social or community initiatives as a requirement for citizenship application, and thereafter, could also be intensified.

Albert Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2017, with the headline 'Step up integration of new citizens to avoid identity crisis'. Print Edition | Subscribe