SINGAPORE - How Singaporeans rallied to help one another get through the pandemic convinced Mr Selvam Satanam - who has lived here since 1981 - to apply for citizenship.
On Saturday, the 53-year-old Malaysian lawyer, his Filipino wife, 46, and two children, aged 16 and 18, were among 131 people who received their citizenship certificates at a ceremony in Toa Payoh Central Community Club.
"During the Covid-19 pandemic, when we spent a lot more time together as a family, we realised that we were truly grateful that there was a genuine belief and appreciation for unity that is premised on a rich diversity of cultures, languages and belief systems," said Mr Selvam, who came here in 1981 via an Asean scholarship.
"It wasn't just lip service. It was during these uncertain times of the pandemic that prompted reflections on where 'home' is."
During the outbreak, Mr Selvam and his wife Navvab Ramirez, a teacher, volunteered at Bishan Community Club, where they helped to distribute hand sanitisers and masks. They married in 1997 after they met during a volunteering trip to Myanmar.
On Saturday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who handed out the citizenship certificates, urged the recipients to join grassroots activities or become volunteers, highlighting the importance of forging a strong community spirit.
Dr Ng, who is also an MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, cited programmes such as a community scholarship scheme to help eligible students from the Institute of Technical Education, polytechnics and universities with amounts from $500 to $5,000.
In August, the CareGivers Respite and Youth Mentorship programme was also launched, where eligible caregivers living in Bishan-Toa Payoh and Marymount receive up to $500 worth of caregiving credits for 12 months.
These credits will enable them to take a break, run errands and do something for themselves while qualified service providers help to look after their loved ones for a few hours, Dr Ng said.
The exact number of new citizens this year has yet to be finalised. In 2021, there were about 21,500.
The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth said that while there are "slight variations in numbers year on year, we have kept the pace of immigration measured and stable".