SINGAPORE - Their numbers may be small but their contribution towards nation building has gone a long way.
On July 31, the Singapore Ceylon Tamils' Association marked its 100th anniversary by honouring seven of its own people.
They received their awards from Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at a celebratory dinner at the Ceylon Sports Club.
Mr Tharman told the gathering that the Ceylon Tamils, as a minority within a minority, made a significant impact in Singapore because they made the most of the country's multiracialism that rewarded talent and effort regardless of race.
He paid tribute to former deputy prime minister S. Rajaratnam, as a member of the Ceylon Tamil minority, for drafting the Singapore Pledge with its call for a single, united people regardless of race, language or religion.
Also present at the occasion was Ms Irene Ng, MP Tampines GRC, who has written a book on Mr Rajaratnam, titled The Singapore Lion: A biography of S. Rajaratnam.
The seven who were honoured were presented with the Star Excellence Awards for their professional contributions to the nation, taking part in community service, and for being role models.
The seven award recipients are:
- Mr J.Y. Pillay, who served in the administrative service and was Permanent Secretary of various key ministries, including finance, defence and national development
- Dr Arumugam Vijiaratnam, first Pro-Chancellor of NTU from 1992-2005, president of the Institution of Engineers, Singapore and a World Bank consultant
- Emeritus Professor K. Shanmugaratnam, a histo-pathologist at NUS who was instrumental in setting up the Singapore Cancer Registry
- Dr S. Lavan Iswaran, gynaecologist and obstetrician, who is the founder and life member of the Family Planning Association of Singapore (now called Singapore Planned Parenthood Association)
- Dr N. Kunaratnam, retired senior consultant ENT surgeon at SGH who continues to be visiting consultant at SGH
- Dr S. T. Kasinathan, an orthopaedic surgeon and the present Chairman of the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple
- Mr C. Thiruchelvarayan, who helped build some of the key facilities for National Servicemen during the early days and many other development projects
The association also launched a 200-page book on the Ceylon Tamil community in Singapore.
Its president R. Theyvendran said the association, which has more than 1,400 members today, is close-knit but needs young blood for its leadership.