Joining a land of reasonable people

As an economic migrant in the 1970s, I did not come to Singapore with the intention of settling down permanently.

It was the thought of making money quickly that motivated me.

To top it off, many of my friends who had come here before me were doing well financially.

At that time, we regarded ourselves as a transient "economic immigrant" society, owing our loyalty to our homeland. Although there was a permanently settled Ceylonese community in Singapore, we did not feel like we belonged.

Within about two years, while some moved on to greener pastures, some of us decided to become permanent settlers in Singapore.

I was given residency status and, after five years, the certificate of citizenship on condition that I renounced the citizenship of my homeland.

Becoming closer to being a Singaporean was not too difficult for me because not only is my spouse a born-and-bred Singaporean but I also have great interest in secularism, the bedrock of Singapore's multiculturalism.

To me, the idea of being a Singaporean is being a reasonable citizen - reasonable with reference to equal rights, freedom of speech and inclusiveness.

Having listened to the political speeches during the recent election period - and also read people's views on social media - and voted in the polls, I can say with confidence that the emphatic electoral victory is a victory for "reasonableness".

Congratulations to all the elected candidates. After all, we need good parliamentarians - regardless of which political parties they represent - who have the resourcefulness and the instinct to speak up honestly for Singapore's multiculturalism, progress and prosperity.

My suggestion to newcomers to Singapore is to think of themselves not as "transient immigrants" but as belonging to and owing their loyalty to Singapore.

Being a Singaporean is different from being a holder of a Singapore passport.

Needless to say, unreasonable prejudices and fears of "economic migrants" are counterproductive to progress.

And it is worth reflecting on what Mr Lee Kuan Yew said in 2008 ("MM Lee: Next 5 to 10 years the most promising for S'pore"; July 12, 2008): "You need 65 per cent of the population to be born-and-bred Singaporeans, steeped with the culture, steeped with instincts of what a Singaporean is. They will slowly influence the migrants who join us to become like us."


S. Ratnakumar