SINGAPORE - Being a Singaporean has its benefits but also its obligations, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said Saturday as he presented 132 new citizens with their pink identity cards.
"While you enjoy the privileges of a citizen, you also have a responsibility to contribute to your new country, Singapore," he said at the annual National Citizenship Ceremony at the School of the Arts.
He urged new citizens to make efforts to integrate, and they could do this by finding out more about the cultural practices of their neighbours, the kinds of food they enjoy, and how they celebrate their festivals.
"Your Singaporean friends and neighbours are also likely to appreciate, and reciprocate, your initiative to reach out to them. It is by building relationships with those around us that we show our care for our home and our community," he said.
He said it was clear from the recently concluded Our Singapore Conversation exercise that Singaporeans want a society anchored on common values and principles, on togetherness and a sense of kindred or "kampung" spirit.
He suggested that new citizens reach out to fellow Singaporeans and neighbours, volunteer with grassroots or civil society organisations, and get involved in the community.
He held up the example of Mr Alban Olivier Salord, 39, formerly a French citizen, who was at Saturday's ceremony along with others from countries such as Malaysia, China, India and Indonesia.
For four years, the finance manager has been volunteering at Life Community Services Society, which works with low-income families and children whose parents are in jail. He is a friend to these children, helping to arrange parties and taking them on outings.
"This is where I live, this is where I work, and this is where I see myself in the future," Mr Salord said.
Last year, he married a British citizen, who is a permanent resident here, and he hopes to have children who will attend local schools.
Mr Goh said Singaporeans also have to play their part to help new citizens integrate more easily into the community, avoid cultural misunderstandings, and build a more cohesive society.
About 3,600 other new citizens will receive citizenship documents at ceremonies across Singapore this weekend.
Responding to Mr Goh's speech, Mr Hong Qixin, 34, who has volunteered for almost a decade at the Singapore Lam Ann Association, a Hokkien clan group, said the ties he has formed are one reason he decided to apply for citizenship.
Such friendships also helped him improve his English, which was initially a struggle. The father-to-be looks forward to his child growing up here without such barriers: "I hope my child can also be bilingual."
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