Over the weekend, Acting Education Minister Ong Ye Kung mentioned that society is still far from ready to do away with identity markers when race is concerned. Singaporeans still want to be recognised by race though we are all Singaporeans. Singapore is not like Japan or Korea whose citizens are homogeneous. We are a mixture of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others (CIMO) based on identity card classifications.
I ask myself, what constitute Singapore Identity. This question has been tackled many times by different people over time. The following piece is my take, having born before Singapore’s Independence and growing up under PAP government all these years.
- 82% of Singapore resident population live in HDB flats. This is unique.
- PSLE is a very important national examination. Kids and parents are stressed by it.
- All male citizens must complete National Service at age 18-19 years old.
- Each time when I hear an interview of Singaporean in Chinese, most cannot hold the Chinese language well. Both Chinese and English words were spoken together as if it was a different language altogether. That is the sad part of bilingualism in Singapore education system.
- There is one dominant political party in Singapore and that is People’s Action Party (PAP). I grew up knowing only one party forming the government since independence.
- We are made of four different races, Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian. The Others in CIMO is for races other than Chinese, Malay and Indian.
- Majority Singaporeans shy away from discussing politics openly in public.
- We work hard for money, status and properties at the expense of leisure, spiritual and mental development. It is always not enough to retire comfortably in Singapore because of our cost of living.
- We get upset over many things, such as MRT breakdowns.
- Singaporeans like our Singlish, the lahs and the lohs are must have. You can know a Singaporean anywhere in the world just by listening to their conversations.
Have we got an unique identity? Do we have a common personality trait? Ong Ye Kung mentioned that it is a tapestry of all races, cultures and traditions. Food for thoughts.