Book project to highlight Sikhs' contributions to S'pore

Although a minority here, the Sikhs in Singapore have punched well above their weight and, as a community, have contributed significantly to the island state's development.

You may have heard this statement many times. After all, throughout Singapore's 50 years of post-independence history, national leaders have highlighted this while paying tribute to the Sikh community here.

To ensure that this example does not just end up as a cliche, the Young Sikh Association (Singapore), or YSA, is embarking on an important exercise to document the contributions of key members of the Sikh community towards Singapore's development.

The project, which will manifest itself in a book, will trace the stories of 50 Sikhs who have made notable contributions to nation- building since 1965. Titled 50 Sikhs And Singapore's Nation-Building, the book will focus on contributions across diverse fields, including the arts and culture, business, sports and government and uniformed services, to name a few.

The book project has received national endorsement. It is funded through the SG50 Celebrations Fund - the first and only initiative, to date, from the Sikh community to receive such support from the SG50 Committee.

In stressing the significance of the initiative, Member of Parliament (MP) Inderjit Singh said the book will be a valuable asset to the community going forward. "I am happy that YSA is embarking on this project, with support from the Sikh community, as it will be a useful record of the role the Sikhs here have played in nation-building. As a community, we need such documentation so that current and future generations of Singaporean Sikhs will continue to play their part at the wider level," he said.

"The publication will give the community and the nation an opportunity to recognise the contributions of a minority group to Singapore's commendable growth story and it will inevitably strengthen Singapore's nation-building process," the MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC added.

YSA president Malminderjit Singh explained that the impetus for the publication stemmed from several factors, not least for the Sikh community to celebrate 50 years of Singapore's independence, which also provides the symbolic rationale to feature 50 Sikhs.

He added: "While we mark this milestone year in the country's history, we should also celebrate the role that Singaporeans from all walks of life have played in this journey - itself a testimony to the meritocratic and pluralistic environment that Singapore has developed."

The project, though laudable, is not without challenges - notably the task to finalise the list of 50 individuals who will be featured in the book. Nominations for Sikhs to be considered for the publication were opened in the third quarter of last year with YSA receiving about 150 nominations.

To assist in the nomination process, YSA set clear criteria for shortlisting the individuals. Besides having their contributions recorded post-1965, the nominees must also have contributed at the national level or towards nation-building and must have done so in their respective fields for at least five years.

To add objectivity and professionalism to the process, an independent panel has been established to assess the nominations and make the final decision on the 50 Sikhs who will be featured in the book.

Chaired by eminent academician and Nominated Member of Parliament Professor Tan Tai Yong, who currently serves as the executive vice-president (academic affairs) at the Yale-NUS College and is director of the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) at the National University of Singapore, the panel also includes the Sikh Advisory Board in Singapore's former chairman Surjit Singh Wasan, former Singapore Indian Development Association chief executive officer T. Raja Segar and representatives of other segments of the community. Aided by YSA's role as a secretariat, the panel will evaluate the nominations over the next few months.

The publication will be launched in the second half of the year. It will indeed mark a momentous occasion for the Sikh community and the rest of Singapore.

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