To be Singaporean is to act on problems we see: Indranee

Speaking in Parliament on the topic of national identity, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah reached out to the young for this task, saying they have the qualities, values and opportunity to accomplish it.

To be Singaporean is to care - about family, about others, about the country.

But more than that, it is to take action when we see a problem that needs fixing, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah said in Parliament yesterday as she spoke about national identity.

She noted that over the past week of debate on the President's Address, much has been said about challenges such as social mobility, inequality and the lack of social mixing. "These are real concerns," she said. "However, in the context of identity, the real point to note is... that we care that it is becoming a problem and we are determined to do something about it."

That is the essence of being Singaporean, she said.

"We care enough to want to do something. If we see something wrong, our first instinct is to help, to fix it, to improve the situation."

But another Singaporean trait is to also be pragmatic and to make sure that things actually get done, she added. "Empathy without outcomes achieves little. Care has to be deliverable and sustainable, both operationally and financially."

Furthermore, Ms Indranee said, Singapore's "preoccupation with the future is driven by our sense of duty and stewardship - that we must not only tend to our own generation but plant seeds that will bear fruit for the next".

GETTING THINGS DONE

Empathy without outcomes achieves little. Care has to be deliverable and sustainable, both operationally and financially.

MS INDRANEE RAJAH, on how empathy alone is not enough.

She called on the next generation to write the next chapter of the Singapore story, saying they have the qualities, values and opportunity to accomplish it.

"No matter what our background, each of us has a role to play, each has something to contribute to make Singapore a better place," she said.

Looking back at Singapore's history, Ms Indranee noted that its independence was hard-won, and that is why securing its place in the world is one of the Government's priorities, and the reason it does not allow external interference with local politics.

As a small country, Singapore is often subject to external pressures as countries larger and more powerful may, from time to time, try to dictate what Singapore should do, she said.

"However, we will act only in accordance with the best interests of Singapore. This takes courage, deftness - and a healthy sense of realism," she said.

"We advance and defend our right to self-determination through diplomacy and deterrence. That is why we act on principle and support a rules-based international order, where states must act in accordance with agreed rules and not purely on the basis of might or size."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2018, with the headline 'To be S'porean is to act on problems we see: Indranee'. Print Edition | Subscribe