His fiery speeches in Parliament during his four terms as MP have made headlines. A people's person whose uncanny ability to keep his ears close to the ground made him a valuable asset to the Singapore Government. These traits made Mr Inderjit Singh one of the most well-liked politicians in Singapore in recent times.
But to the Sikhs in Singapore, he is one of the reasons the community has often been said to have punched well above its weight. Being a high-profile public figure, he helped expand the presence of the community at the national level, making him a role model for young Sikhs.
Mr Inderjit stepped down from politics and did not contest the last General Election. To recognise and thank him for his contributions, an Appreciation Dinner for him was held by the Sikh community on April 23. At the dinner organised by the Young Sikh Association or YSA (Singapore) and supported by the Sikh Sewaks Singapore and Naam Ras Kirtan Darbar, community leaders thanked Mr Inderjit for his leadership, guidance and support for the community since his entry into politics in 1996.
"A true Sikh who embodied the Sikh values of sacrifice, service, perseverance, dedication and hard work, Inderjit entered politics in 1996 and went on to serve not only our nation but also the Sikh community until he stood down as a Member of Parliament last year," said Mr Surjit Singh Wasan, member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights and the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony, in his speech at the dinner.
"Many of his contributions were made silently or working with close groups of people, but whose impact the community as a whole has benefited from. Many of Inderjit's contributions also happened out of sight of the public eye."
Mr Wasan, who was the immediate past chairman of the Sikh Advisory Board, worked closely with Mr Inderjit on matters pertaining to the Sikh community in Singapore. He provided an account of the former Ang Mo Kio GRC MP's countless contributions to the community here.
Mr Inderjit's many contributions included his leadership of the community in key milestone projects, playing the role of a mediator, building consensus within the community on contentious issues and helping the community achieve many of its aims, including getting government funding for the teaching of Punjabi as a second language along with the other minority non-Tamil Indian languages. He also got the Sikh Welfare Council the status of the Institute of Public Character (IPC).
Mr Wasan added that Mr Inderjit had, through his upright conduct and positive visibility over the years, upheld the good name and image of the Sikh community.
YSA president Malminderjit Singh pointed out that youth development was another area where Mr Inderjit played a key role. In his speech Mr Malminderjit said the former MP's ability to focus on the long-term has also seen him invest great time and energy in the youth of the community.
"Despite his busy schedule, he has always made himself available to youth organisations and initiatives and provided his counsel, no matter how trivial the concerns brought to his attention were. He never made any of us feel that our ideas were too small or inconsequential," said Mr Malminderjit.
He explained that the appreciation dinner was one of the ways for the youths to thank Mr Inderjit. The YSA has other initiatives lined up to deepen his legacy in the community. One of these efforts, he said, was an award named after the entrepreneur-cum-politician. "To entrench in the community his values of enterprise, innovation, dedication and the never-say-die attitude, I am pleased to confirm that YSA will launch a community award named after Mr Inderjit. The award is aimed at inspiring young Sikhs by highlighting individuals in the community who embody these values."
An independent working committee will be set up to look into the finer points of this award.
Mr Inderjit was also honoured with a plaque and portrait of himself at the appreciation dinner by two community patrons - Mr Kartar Singh Thakral and Mr Naranjan Singh Brahmpura.
A presentation at the event showed the tributes from Sikhs and non-Sikhs that flowed in for Mr Inderjit's contributions to the nation and community. One of these came from Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam who wrote: "Inderjit is an outstanding son of Singapore. His contributions in politics, the ear he lent to people from all quarters of life, and his leading role in promoting entrepreneurship, have left a strong mark on our society. I am glad to know him as a friend."
Ms Chew Mok Lee, the assistant chief executive of SPRING Singapore, paid a glowing tribute to Mr Inderjit's contributions to entrepreneurship in Singapore.
"As one of the earliest proponents of entrepreneurship, you have been (and continue to be) relentless in pushing boundaries in financing, in building the entrepreneurial eco-system and in championing the removal of restrictions of rules and regulations," she said.
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