Many of my readers will know that I am a Singaporean. I have not lived in my home country for some while now since marrying my Scottish ‘hero’ in 1989 and giving birth to our two boys in the ensuing years. Even before that, I had been gallivanting around the globe on an educational odyssey. (I jest! I was a student.) Nevertheless, despite years of living abroad, I have retained a fondness for the Singapore I knew, and continue to be proud of my Singaporean heritage.
Thus, it was with some sadness when I heard about the passing of Lee Kuan Yew, the former Prime Minister of my island home, who, whilst being authoritarian, was nonetheless uncompromising in his vision and endeavour to build up a tiny country with few natural resources apart from its natural harbour and location in the South China Sea and, of course, its people. Singapore is a melting pot of diverse cultures, with much potential for unrest particularly during its early days as a fledgling island state. Indeed, during a short-lived merger with Malaysia, racial tensions led to Sino-Malay riots which pre-empted Singapore’s departure from the Federation in 1965.
Lee’s foresight and passion for our newly independent city state can be summed up in this quote: ‘Now Singapore shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent nation, founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of the people in a most and just equal society.’ (biography.com/people/lee-kuan-yew) Firstly, to my mind, the peoples of Singapore had to think like Singaporeans: to believe in their country, to think like one people, to act like one people and to be one people. This was not to say that the diversee races of our tiny island should not continue to embrace their our cultures, but that we should respect each other and uphold and support each other first and foremost as Singaporeans.
Vividly, I remember being lined up in rows together with my fellow pupils on an open field in school where was no shade available whilst we stood to attention under the hot Singapore sun or in an open hall when it rained during our Monday to Friday school assemblies. It was then that we repeated the Singapore National Pledge which is available in four different languages: English, Tamil, Malay, and Chinese. The pledge affirmed our national character whilst never diminishing our individuality as people of different races. I firmly believe that this pledge, when said with hand on heart, has been key to the Singapore that I knew and experienced as a child and teenager before I came away.
The National Pledge
- We, the citizens of Singapore,
- pledge ourselves as one united people,
- regardless of race, language or religion,
- to build a democratic society
- based on justice and equality
- so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
- progress for our nation.
(Note: Remember that the grass can both be green and sere on either side of the fence.)
Blenheim Lodge . . . panoramic Lake views, peace and tranquillity, nestled against acres of beautiful fields and woodlands, in the heart of the English Lake District National Park.’
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