This is an excerpt from a speech in Parliament yesterday by Mr Chan Chun Sing, Acting Minister for Social and Family Development.
WHEN I was in the army, I had a unit where only eight out of 32 soldiers were "true-blue Singaporeans", as some of you may call them. The rest were either not born here or not raised here. I asked why they would fight together. None of them gave me some high-brow answers like how many percentage of the people staying here are Singaporeans.
They fight because their buddies fight alongside them. They will defend this place because this is their home - where they share common experiences, common values and most importantly a common vision for a better life tomorrow.
Our job is to do our best to support our NSmen in their duties to our country. Our job is not to constantly talk down their motivation, deflate their morale and question their sacrifice.
Will members of this House fight for Singapore if there are x or y million foreigners living here with us? If our answer is yes, then the answer from our NSmen will be an equivocal yes as well. But if your answer is no, then I do not need to ask my NSmen further.
This is not politics. This is leadership.
It is not easy. Our NSmen sacrifice time and effort to uphold our defence. Often our NSmen feel the competition from the foreigners here. They wonder if they will be disadvantaged. It is a heavy price to pay for independence. But I am confident that most of them understand this price that we pay. Because this country belongs to us.
Let us also not start drawing lines to divide who is a true Singaporean and who is not. Is someone born a Singaporean but lived overseas for 15 years, speaks with a foreign twang and came back to serve his NS any less Singaporean? Is a foreign child who came here at the age of 10, embraces our values and systems, speaks Singlish and goes on to serve NS any less Singaporean?
We have always been an open society. We draw strength from this. Unlike others who are defined by their tribal lineage or those who define their nationhood through many years of history, we are a young country with 50 years of history.
If we believe that the Singapore Dream of multiracialism, meritocracy, incorruptibility, rule of law, society before self are all things we value, then we have the ingredients to build a nation.
The 1965 generation taught me an important lesson. Nationhood is not defined by what the country can give us.
It is defined by what we can give, what we can contribute and how we overcome our challenges together.
[Probably one of the better speeches he has given, and it is simply because he speaks here from a position of expertise, experience, and leadership. And at the end he paraphrases or rephrases Kennedy's "ask not what your country can do for you..." :-)]