Saturday 20 August 2016

50 Years of Indian Community in Singapore

Book pays tribute to Indians in Singapore
It chronicles community's contributions to the nation and progress made over 50 years
By Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 20 Aug 2016

Indians have "outperformed their ratio" in the general population, Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh said yesterday, at the launch of a new book chronicling the Indian community's contributions over the past half century.

50 Years Of Indian Community In Singapore highlights, among other things, how 35 per cent of Indians in 2010 had tertiary education - higher than the national average of 22.6 per cent, and up from just 4.1 per cent in 1990.

It also adds that there are many Indians in high-ranking positions, such as in the legal and public sector. Many are also government leaders, noted Professor Koh.

Saying their success should be celebrated, he added: "My aspiration for Singapore in the next 50 years is that I hope other minority communities, particularly the Malay community, will make enormous progress... and will, like the Indian community, outperform their ratio in the general population."

Published by World Scientific, the book features 16 articles written by Indian academics, thinkers, and leaders in the arts and heritage fields, among others. Launched at the Indian Heritage Centre, it is part of a series of 26 titles by World Scientific that commemorate SG50. So far it has published books on the Chinese and Malay communities. One on the Eurasian community is in the works.

Ambassador-at-large Gopinath Pillai, one of the new book's editors, suggested that the Indian community should "seriously consider acquiring a working knowledge of conversational Mandarin" to communicate with the Chinese majority here in an effort to achieve national integration.

Mr Pillai admitted that it might not sound like a popular idea but told The Straits Times: "You can't expect the majority to come and talk to you in a language you know. It is up to you to talk to the majority in the language they know."

Other articles in the book chronicle the contributions of Indians to early Singapore and the country's economy as well as the visual and performing arts scene. It also documents the history of groups such as the Parsis and Pakistanis.

Another topic tackled is the tension between the old and new Indian diaspora in Singapore.

Mr Pillai believes the cause of such tensions is largely because some Indian expatriates might have the perspective that they are superior, having entered the country already successful, compared to local Indians who entered the country as labourers.

He believes it is a matter of time before the issue is remedied and that the situation is improving. "Everybody has to show a little bit of tolerance."

The publication is available at major bookstores for $22 in paperback and $42 in hardback.

It features a foreword by sixth president S R Nathan.

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