Tuesday October 24, 2017
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Indian Heritage Centre in Singapore and India’s lost migrant connection

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source: national heritage board

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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JY Pillay: Indian Origin Civil Servant Appointed as the Acting President of Singapore

As CPA Chairman since 2005, Pillay has been acting President each time the President goes on an overseas trip

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Acting President of Singapore
JY Pillay. Youtube
  • JY Pillay has been appointed as the acting President of Singapore
  • Pillay, also the Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers, is a veteran civil servant of Indian Origin
  • The Singapore polls take place on 23rd September

September 2, 2017: Indian-origin veteran civil servant JY Pillay on Friday took over as Singapore’s acting President until a new head of the state is elected later this month.

The temporary appointment of Pillay, Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA), follows the completion of President Tony Tan Keng Yam’s six-year term on Thursday, the Strait Times reported.

The nomination day for the Presidential election is September 13, followed by polling day on September 23.

According to the report, when the office of President is vacant, the first in line to exercise its powers is the CPA Chairman, followed by the Speaker of Parliament. This is the first time the office has fallen vacant since the elected presidency was introduced in 1991.

Pillay is no stranger to exercising the powers of the President. As CPA Chairman since 2005, he has been acting President each time the President goes on an overseas trip. He acted as President in May, when Tan made state visits to Europe.

He has served more than 60 such “stints”– the longest of which was 16 days in April and May of 2007 when then President SR Nathan visited Africa. (IANS)


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Ant-hunting We Will Go! A Social media Group aims to connect Ant Lovers

Ants Singapore, a Facebook group that has grown to 380 members since last December, aims to connect "ant lovers and even those who are interested in keeping ants."

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An ant collector holds up a queen ant
Chris Chan, an ant collector, holds up a queen ant at a house he rented to keep his ants in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Wikimedia
  • Ants Singapore, a Facebook group, aims to connect “ant lovers and even those who are interested in keeping ants”
  • Followers share tips on catching and breeding ants, do-it-yourself ant farms and links to videos
  • The group hopes to change the idea of ants as a nuisance even though these insects are mostly harmless

Singapore, June 10, 2017: Shining their flashlights into the darkest corners of Singapore, a small group of ant hunters searches for an elusive winged insect.

With luck, they will find a queen ant to lay eggs and start a colony under the watchful eye of a collector.

“You can search for a few hours without finding anything at all. So, it’s really luck,” Leland Tan, 14, said after he hit the jackpot, and found two queen ants in one night.

Singapore, a tropical city-state home to more than 40 ant species, has a small but growing community of ant collectors.

Ants Singapore, a Facebook group that has grown to 380 members since last December, aims to connect “ant lovers and even those who are interested in keeping ants.”

Followers share tips on catching and breeding ants, do-it-yourself ant farms and links to videos such as the giant killer ants in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

While most ants in Singapore are harmless, the insects are often regarded as a nuisance. That is something Chris Chan is hoping to change.

“I want people to look at ants differently,” said Chan, a 29-year-old Uber driver and member of Ants Singapore.

“Now, a lot of people still think that ants are pests, but with enough education, I can educate them that keeping ants can be safe,” he told Reuters Television.

Chan lives across the border in the southern Malaysian city of Johor Bahru with his girlfriend, her family and up to 30 ant colonies living in 10 formicariums, or ant farms.

Helen Teh, the mother of Chan’s girlfriend, said she was curious why the couple needed so much sand and wood in their home.

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“He said, ‘Oh Auntie, I’m keeping ants,'” Teh said, recalling her initial surprise.

“Later, when I knew it is something that he loves … I said, ‘It’s no harm done,'” she said.

Chan has turned to social media to promote his hobby.

He has started a YouTube channel for new collectors and answers questions about ant care on the group’s Facebook page.

Chan also organizes ant-hunting trips to teach people how to find and catch the tiny insects that he says can hold his attention for hours.

“Some people can stare at an aquarium for hours. Same, just like my ants,” Chan said. (VOA)