[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Monday, August 03, 2009

[National Day Celebration at Eurasian House ]

Fellow Singaporeans, friends of Singapore, we are delighted to gather here this morning at the Eurasian House to celebrate Singapore’s 44th birthday. Over these two weeks all over Singapore, Singaporeans of different ethnic groups and religions from different walks of life, come together to observe National Day. They meet in schools, in community halls, at the power stations, on Jurong Island, in shipyards, very often joined by non-Singaporean friends and colleagues and relatives. We are delighted this morning to welcome all Singaporeans to this Eurasian House for our celebration.

Our multi-ethnicity is something very unusual. Most countries, almost all countries, have now, with globalisation, become multi-ethnic and multi-religious. In many countries, this has become a source of problems, and we need only to read the newspapers everyday of unhappy conflicts in different parts of the world, arising out of diversity.

In Singapore, our diversity is in our very essence. No one can imagine a Singapore which is not multi-ethnic or multi-religious. In fact, diversity is an idea which defines Singapore not only to ourselves, but to the world. We are able to manage this diversity only because we have national policies which are overall fair, which treats everyone equally, which allows talent to rise, and which; when the outcomes appear too uneven because of competition, we try to make accommodations in order that no one is left behind, so that no ethnic group, no religious group somehow becomes trapped in under-development.

But it is not just policies and government, it is also what we are as individual Singaporeans, what we experience, teach our children, how teachers teach students in schools, how employers treat their workers. Above all, it is what we ourselves are in our hearts. If we are close-minded, if we are insecure, it will show eventually in how we treat one another, and distrust builds upon distrust, suspicion upon suspicion and very quickly, it is not at all difficult to find ourselves in a situation not too different from that we find in other countries.

So, on the one hand, policies, on the other hand, a common instinct that this diversity is part of us, which can be problematic, but also can be beautiful. It is this same spirit, which opens our hearts to people from other countries as well, welcoming them here as colleagues, as tourists, as students, sometimes and increasingly so, as in-laws and as relatives.

We in Eurasian Association feel particularly honoured that this observance ceremony should be held here in the Eurasian House. The Eurasian community is by far the smallest community in Singapore, or the least definable one out of the four. There was a time when it just got lost in the decimal points, and it was considered “others” as the O in CIMO - Chinese, Indians, Malays and Others. I must say that created a certain resentment among the Eurasians in Singapore, that they were not treated in a sufficiently respectful way. There was indeed a time, when the community was demoralised, when many of its members emigrated in the 70s and 80s. But we have rounded the corner over the last 20 years. Their morale has gone up, the community has grown, new members have been inducted, there is a new Eurasian spirit. The rules are being relaxed now to enable parents in mixed marriages to decide that their children should be called Eurasians when they enter primary schools. In some ways, this community has made great contributions to the overall well-being of the Singaporeans.

A few weeks ago, we had a wonderful musical called “Eurasiana”. President Nathan was the patron. The hall was packed over the two performances. After that many Eurasians remarked to themselves, “Why, I did not know there was so much talent in our community.” But they were reminded as all Singaporeans were reminded, that over the years, Eurasians have made indispensable contributions to Singapore’s history and development, Singapore’s past to Singapore’s present, and will continue to make such contributions to Singapore’s future.

In a way, the morale of the Eurasian community is a measure of the morale of Singapore as a whole – a measure of our health as a multi-ethnic society. All of us know how to treat the rich and the powerful around us. But just as a society is not to be judged by how it treats its rich and its powerful, so we as individuals are not to be judged by how we treat the rich and the powerful. We are to be judged by how we relate to the poor and the weak among us. It is for this reason that we have self-help groups in Singapore, to make sure that we do not only do what we naturally do, but we also do what is morally and socially right to do. In some ways, the fact that the four self-help groups, which are observing National Day together for the first time should choose as their first venue, the Eurasian Association, that itself says a lot about what we are as Singaporeans, about a diversity which we have learnt to treasure and which we celebrate today. Happy National Day!

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Watch the video of the speech


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