PM urges all citizens to build a common identity

PM urges all citizens to build a common identity

New citizens and Singaporeans alike should follow in the footsteps of the country's pioneers, who contributed and built a common Singaporean identity, despite being from different races and cultures.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan had this message for Singaporeans yesterday, as they welcomed new citizens at two separate National Citizenship ceremonies.

Both also called on new citizens to integrate into society, and Mr Lee asked that Singaporeans, too, play a part in helping their new fellow countrymen fit in.

This weekend, 14 such ceremonies will be held across the island, where close to 3,350 new citizens will get their pink identity cards and certificates of citizenship.

Speaking at the Cheng San Community Club at a ceremony for 150 new Singaporeans from Ang Mo Kio GRC and Sengkang West, Mr Lee said changing their citizenship was a major decision and was not one that was made lightly.

Those who chose to make Singapore home were not just weighing the benefits and costs but were also declaring that "this is where I belong".

He said: "It's not just a matter of weighing up the benefits and the costs rationally... but committing your heart. What identity you adopt, what values you will make your own, where will your loyalty lie."

Acknowledging that there will be adjustments to be made, he added: "You come from different cultures but you'll have to get used to the Singapore culture. Embrace it but at the same time, bring what you have into the Singapore culture and enrich it, so that we become one big successful family."

As was the case with the older generation of Singaporeans, whose children have grown up together in Singapore, new citizens now, too, will sink roots here, he said, adding that he hoped they would actively integrate into Singapore society.

"One day, I'm sure many of you will come to enjoy durians as well - that's a test of being Singaporean," he said to laughter from the audience.

He also urged them to take part in community activities, or volunteer to serve the community if they could, and invited them to celebrate Singapore's 50th anniversary with fellow citizens next year.

Singaporeans, on their part, can make the newcomers feel at home by introducing them to friends, inviting them to social events, and even asking them over for meals in their homes, said Mr Lee.

"With Singaporeans, food is always a very good starting point for many conversations," he said.

Engineering company owner Rege Abhijit Suresh, 35, from India, who was at the event with his family, said those new to Singapore should learn from the locals if they want to make Singapore home.

He said: "As outsiders, we need to make the effort, and not expect people to come to us."

His wife Zlata Luneva, 33, an assistant manager at a health-care company, is from Russia, and their son Vijay Rege, five, was born here. All three got their pink ICs and certificates of citizenship yesterday.

Mr Rege, who has lived in Singapore since 1996, said he has adopted the Singapore way of life, and is looking forward to his son serving national service in future.

Ms Luneva, who came here in 2006 after her marriage, agreed. She said: "I can't wait to see him in his uniform."

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