27 October 2014
The compartmentalisation of Singapore’s multicultural citizens into the four main ‘races’ prevents the effective forging of a comprehensive Singapore identity which new and local-born citizens can relate to. A stronger Singaporean identity needs to be inculcated in all citizens, especially with the increasing diversity of new immigrants to its shores.
Recent calls by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his ministers for new citizens to play a part in assimilating into Singapore society are not new; neither are the oft-repeated suggestions for Singaporeans to strengthen their Singapore identity before their ethnicity. However the two calls are mutually contradictory as being Singaporean comes with a caveat – one must belong to a “race”. Inevitably this has largely encouraged citizens to view themselves according to their ethnic identities first.
Expectations for new citizens to easily assimilate into the Singapore society are unrealistic if ethnic identity already commonly precedes a Singaporean one, and where stark differences between ethnic groups are maintained. Both government and society should move beyond identifying Singaporeans according to one’s ethnic group first, if a more substantial Singaporean identity is to be forged. This now becomes increasingly pertinent considering the diversity of new citizens domiciled in Singapore, to foster nation-building and ultimately the resilience of the society in times of need.
…Nur Diyanah Anwar is a research analyst with the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS) at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.
CENS / RSIS / Online
Last updated on 28/10/2014