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Indian Heritage Centre in Singapore and India’s lost migrant connection

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source: national heritage board
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Chennai: When the Chettiars of Tamil Nadu first made their journey to Singapore centuries back to explore business opportunities, India made her first connection with the island nation. Migrants from India to Singapore over the years consisted of traders, educated middle-class occupying positions in the British empire, indentured labourers, members of the Indian Army, and white-collar professionals in the recent 1990s.

The Indian Heritage Centre (IHC) in Singapore was inaugurated in May this year as a tribute to India and a reminder of its contribution in the country’s growth.

Itty Abraham, head of the department of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, gave a talk ‘IHC Singapore: A Missed Opportunity’ at Alliance Francaise on Friday. In his talk, he stated that the four-storey building of the IHC blends traditional Indian and modern architectural elements, but unfortunately leaves out crucial details on the complex history of the migration of Indians and the assimilation of their culture in Singapore.

Abraham“IHC is constructed on the now irrelevant, strong racial lines of Chinese, Malay, Indians and others. It also does not seem to capture the changing face of Indian society in Singapore and concentrates only on what is aesthetically pleasing, thus providing a pointer as to why it is not a true reflection of the struggles and achievements of the Indian migrants,” said Abraham.

“Early Indians formed an indelible part of the cultural fabric of that country in ways that they have developed a distinctive characteristic,” said Abraham, pointing out how south Indians have always stood out with their cultural singularity in a country where everyone else had adapted. He further highlighted the diverse contributions of Indians in Singapore’s social and economic structure.

The IHC ignores the indentured Indian labourers from the mid-19th century who migrated to Singapore and actually helped in the construction of the massive structures in the country and kept their economy going, stated Abraham. The IHC includes that Indians have been known for their presence in the business sector as bureaucrats and as members of the police and army. The political complexities conclude with the simplified version of the former president of Singapore Deven Nair sacked by the then prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

“The IHC particularly fails in capturing the complexities of the Indians’ migrant story. It remains a museum and not a centre, which must have included the gritty tales of people who survived in a foreign land and helped make its foundations strong,” said Abraham.

 

(Inputs from TNN)

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Halimah Yacob is Singapore’s First Woman President, Elected Without a Vote

"I am a President for everyone," said the newly elected Halimah Yacob, whose post is more representative than executive

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Halimah Yacob
Halimah Yacob who was the only candidate to get eligibility certificate, is now set to be Singapore's next President Wikimedia

Singapore, September 13, 2017 : Halimah Yacob became on Wednesday the first woman President of Singapore, being the only candidate who met the requirements for the presidential elections.

However, Yacob’s selection was overshadowed by criticism that it was undemocratic to give her the top post without a vote. Halimah Yacob, a 63-year-old Muslim of Malay descent, will take her oath of office on Thursday in a ceremony due to be held in Istana, the presidential residence and office, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s office said.

Yacob was the only presidential hopeful among three potential candidates to qualify for the post. This year’s election was reserved for Malay candidates. Two other contenders, businessmen Mohamed Salleh Marican and Farid Khan, did not meet one of the minimum requirements to run, Channel NewsAsia reported.

Yacob, accompanied by her husband and greeted by about 750 supporters, spoke outside the People’s Association building and called for unity in a speech delivered in English and Malay.

“We need every Singaporean to stand together shoulder to shoulder … we have not reached the peak yet and the best is yet to come,” Yacob said, urging citizens to “focus on the similarities that we have and not on the differences.”

In 2016, Singapore’s Parliament approved a constitutional reform which stipulated that the presidential elections would be reserved for one of the ethnicities of the multicultural city-state if no candidate from this group has occupied the post in the previous 30 years.

“I am a President for everyone,” said Halimah Yacob, whose post is more representative than executive.

Yacob was born in 1954 to a Muslim Indian-origin father and a Malay mother.

The mother of five started her political career with the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has been governing the country since 1959, and entered the Parliament in 2001.

She secured her first portfolio in 2011, as State Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports, and became the Speaker of Parliament in 2013.

In August 2017, Halimah Yacob stepped down as Speaker and resigned from the PAP to be able to run for President. (IANS)

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