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New citizens can play a part: Khaw

New citizens can play a part to reach out to those who have newly-arrived in Singapore to help them understand the customs and norms here as they are better able to understand the challenges of adjusting to a new environment, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

SINGAPORE: New citizens can play a part to reach out to those who have newly-arrived in Singapore to help them understand the customs and norms here as they are better able to understand the challenges of adjusting to a new environment, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

Mr Khaw was speaking at a National Citizenship Ceremony, held at the Republic Cultural Centre Theatre at the Republic Polytechnic on Saturday (Aug 30) morning.

The new Singaporeans recited the pledge and sang the National Anthem. Among the 194 new citizens from Sembawang GRC who received their citizenship certificates was physiotherapist Sylvia Liew, who was from Malaysia. The group included 32 families, who applied for citizenship together as family units.

About 3,150 other new citizens would be affirming their commitment to Singapore at 14 GRC-level ceremonies across Singapore this weekend.

Ms Liew said: "I've been here since Primary One, and my friends ask me if I'm a Singaporean. I like the fact that it's a melting pot of all different races together, learning and working together, so that makes me want to stay on and become a citizen of Singapore.

New citizens like Ms Liew are already making valuable contributions to the lives of fellow Singaporeans through the work they do, said Mr Khaw. He noted that as a physiotherapist in a public hospital, she provides care to patients with Parkinson's disease, and conducts talks for such support groups. Mr Khaw added that apart from helping her patients, she also trains other healthcare professionals on methods to assess balance and movement.

He urged other new citizens to contribute through volunteering - whether in the neighbourhood, or through grassroots or community activities. One of them is Madam Neelakantan Paramasivam Subdha who plans to join her husband in the Indian Activity Executive Committee of Woodlands Galaxy Community Club.

Madam Neelakantan said: "We would like to join all the new citizens to get involved in the activities, to have a closer, more friendly relationship."

Mr Khaw said Singapore is particularly proud of its inter-racial and inter-religious harmony. "Against the many racial and religious conflicts elsewhere that we read about almost every day, the state of affairs here in Singapore is truly extraordinary. We must treasure it. We must certainly not take our peace and harmony for granted.

"And it requires every one of us to continue to preserve what's important to us - our social harmony; mutual respect for one another; and graciousness when sharing common spaces." These values, he said, must be handed down to the younger generation so that Singapore remains the peaceful and harmonious country that the pioneer generation has painstakingly built.

Mr Khaw drew a link to the pioneers and spoke about how they were able to build a common Singaporean identity and forge a strong community spirit, even though they were of different races and cultures, and spoke different languages. He added that the ability to rise above differences will define Singapore, and reflect a society that is mature and progressive. 

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