Replying on ST Forum today (‘SC Journey programme helps new citizens integrate‘, 18 Sep), Senior Director of Resilience and Engagement Division in the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, Mr Letchumanan Narayanan, assured the public that there are activities to help new citizens integrate with the locals.
“New citizens would already have experienced our way of life and our norms, having lived in Singapore for some time before being naturalized,” he said.
“By taking up citizenship, they are committing themselves to our shared values and way of life, and have made a conscious decision to place their hopes and dreams on Singapore, making this country home, for them and their future generations.”
Mr Narayanan went on to extol the virtue of his ministry’s programme, the Singapore Citizenship (SC) Journey, a mandatory programme for foreigners who wish to become Singapore citizens.
“Through the programme’s online guide and quiz, new citizens can deepen their understanding of Singapore’s history, culture, values and norms,” he explained.
The SC Journey also includes a component for new citizens to interact with locals, he said.
“During the community sharing sessions, new citizens meet fellow residents and grassroots leaders from their constituencies to strengthen their connections and roots to their local communities,” he elaborated.
“Since last year, some new citizens have also taken part in a module of the SC Journey which sees them volunteer alongside other Singaporeans, and give back to society.”
Mr Narayanan reminded everyone, new and native citizens, to open their hearts and minds to one another.
“Despite starting out as an immigrant society, we have built a nation and a people with a strong sense of shared identity. But integration efforts must continue. We are confident that we can build a strong and cohesive society, together,” he concluded.
However, the senior director avoided mentioning that native Singaporeans need to serve the National Service (NS) while new citizens may not need to.
Mandatory for native Singaporeans to serve NS
According to ICA website, under the Enlistment Act, all male Singaporeans, unless exempted, are required to serve NS. Following the completion of full-time NS, they will be required to serve up to 40 days of Operationally Ready National Service per year for the duration of their reservist training cycle till the age of 50 years (for officers) or 40 years (for other ranks).
One new citizen who was not called up to serve full-time NS was PAP politician Janil Puthucheary. He was born in Malaysia in 1972 and moved to Singapore in 2001 to work at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
In 2008 at the age of 35, Puthucheary took up Singapore citizenship. Three years later in 2011, he was selected by PAP to run in the General Election of that year. He got into Parliament via Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.
During campaigning, when he was asked if he did not perform NS would put him at a disadvantage in the eyes of the electorate, he superciliously replied, “I’ve spent the last 10 years saving kids’ lives.” A public uproar ensued condemning his remark.
In 2015, with the public incessantly talking about his “saving kids’ lives” being equivalent to “serving NS”, he was forced to “volunteer” to enlist in the newly setup SAF Volunteer Corps that year.