07 November 2014
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 often-repeated suggestions for Singaporeans to strengthen their Singaporean 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 Singapore society are unrealistic if ethnic identity already commonly precedes a Singaporean one, and where stark differences among ethnic groups are maintained.
Both government and society should move beyond identifying Singaporeans according to their 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, in fostering nation building and, ultimately, the resilience of society in times of need.
…Nur Diyanah Anwar is a research analyst with the Centre of Excellence for National Security at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. This commentary first appeared in RSIS Commentaries.
CENS / RSIS / Online / Print
Last updated on 07/11/2014