In two years, Singapore will celebrate its 50th anniversary as a sovereign and independent country. The Government of Singapore has appointed me to the steering committee in charge of the celebrations.
In this essay, I wish to share my reflections on what makes me a Singaporean. First, I am a Singaporean because I was born here, grew up here, went to school here, married here and live and work here.
My wife used to ask me: "Where would you like to spend your retirement years?" I would reply that I wish to work until I die and would like to die in the land of my birth. I have spent my whole life working for Singapore and, although I have never signed a bond of service, I feel bonded to Singapore.
It is, of course, true that you don't have to be born in Singapore to be a Singaporean. One of our founding fathers, Mr S. Rajaratnam, used to say that being a Singaporean is not a condition of one's birth but of one's conviction.
In that spirit, we have welcomed many, who were born elsewhere, into our family. I count among our compatriots friends like Mr Asad Latif, born in India; Mr Alain Vandenborre, born in Belgium; Mr Ray Ferguson, born in the United Kingdom; Mr Simon Israel, born in Fiji; and Mr Gautam Banerjee, born in India.
Second, what makes me a Singaporean is the fact that my close friends include Chinese, Malays, Indians, Eurasians, Arabs, Jews, Armenians. I venture that hardly any Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian or Indonesian can make the same claim; and few even among Americans, from the land of the melting pot.
In the short space of half a century, we have succeeded in achieving a level of acceptance - I would even call it celebration - of the diversity of the human family, which no older nation has done.
I believe that, if presented with a worthy Malay candidate, the electorate of Singapore would elect him or her as our President. I also believe that Singaporeans are ready for a non-Chinese Prime Minister.