As Singapore celebrates its 50th year of independence, it is important to identify what defines its people as Singaporeans, said Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) yesterday in Parliament.
"What reaches and touches the mind, heart and soul of Singaporeans and binds Singaporeans to Singapore?
It cannot be something we do or evoke a celebratory mood every 50 years, or even every year during National Day," he said, as he kicked off the debate on the budget of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.
Noting that it was natural for Singaporeans to be swept up in the mood of SG50 celebrations, he said it was important to channel these positive energies into building a stronger, more united Singapore for the next 50 years.
"What we do today on the occasion of SG50 will define the future of Singapore," said Mr Baey.
The national identities of many citizens of other countries are tied with their racial and cultural identities, he said.
But many Singaporeans are descendants of immigrants, with some of mixed parentage, and so "our racial and cultural identities are actually distinct", he noted.
"Yet, we have to embrace and accept all as part and parcel of being Singaporean," he said, adding that as a result, Singapore as a country does not seem to have anything that is very distinctive culturally.
What Singapore does have - such as Singlish - have gained recognition only recently, said the chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Culture, Community and Youth.
Singling out other "uniquely Singaporean" facets that deserve to be celebrated, he cited the xinyao genre of local Chinese songs, which exemplifies a ground-up "passion and pursuit of people with ideas and creativity".
Getai performances represent "street life, coffee shop talk, what an average Singaporean does every day", added Mr Baey.
This article was first published on March 12, 2015.
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