New citizens look forward to first National Day

For 192 people, this Tuesday will be their first time celebrating National Day as Singapore citizens.

They were presented with their new identity cards and citizenship certificates at a national citizenship ceremony organised by Tampines GRC yesterday.

Among them was public servant Deepti Pathak, 29, who grew up in Singapore after moving from India with her parents when she was 10.

Ms Pathak said she knew she wanted to be Singaporean when she was about 16. "Singapore is home," she told The Sunday Times. "It's where I grew up. I knew early on that I wanted to settle here. The country has shaped me into who I am today."

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, who officiated at the ceremony, said both new citizens and local Singaporeans have a part to play in maintaining the strong multiracial and multicultural foundation established by the country's forefathers.

He said the experience is different in other countries where conflicts often occur due to cultural and religious differences. "This is why the peaceful existence we have in Singapore is something we must cherish and never take for granted," he said.

Mr Masagos, who is also an MP for Tampines GRC, encouraged new citizens to "immerse yourselves in our way of life, and deepen your understanding of our different cultures and religions". He added: "While new citizens need to learn and accept the Singapore way of life to integrate better into our society, local Singaporeans must also put in effort to encourage and welcome new citizens to step forward and be active members of the community."

Citizenship candidates aged 16 to 60, whose applications have been granted "in principle" by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, must undergo a Singapore Citizenship Journey.

The three components of the programme include an online self-study component, a tour of historical landmarks and national institutions, and a community engagement session.

Piano teacher Donna Leong, 35, who moved to Singapore with her engineer husband Hendry Foeng, 39, from Indonesia six years ago, agreed with Mr Masagos on the importance of integration.

Ms Leong, who is also an active volunteer, has organised a picnic at the Botanic Gardens today for about 30 friends and family members. Among them will be the parents of her eight-year-old daughter Jadelyn's classmates. Ms Leong said: "It's important to spend time with fellow Singaporeans... to be involved, integrated, and to give back to the community."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 07, 2016, with the headline 'New citizens look forward to first National Day'. Print Edition | Subscribe