Want to become a Singaporean?
Pass a basic English test and do mandatory community work, said
Member of Parliament Darryl David.
This was what the MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC suggested in his maiden
parliamentary speech last Tuesday. It is on top of existing
citizenship criteria by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority
Speaking to The New Paper last Thursday, the first-term MP
explained that he is not trying to throw more obstacles into the
"The ICA has their own set of criteria when it comes to
citizenship. We should continue to maintain these standards.
"Citizenship is not something that should be taken lightly or for
granted... The aim is not to make the application process more
onerous, but to help new citizens assimilate better," said Mr
The ICA said one of the eligibility criterion is to be a permanent
resident (PR) for at least two years.
Mr David's suggestion stems from personal observations at a
community event involving new citizens in his GRC.
He spoke to them in English, but was met with puzzled faces.
"You can tell by their reactions that they're not quite following
what you're saying. I spoke to grassroots leaders and asked
"The feedback, indeed, was that there are times when new citizens
perhaps don't have as good a grasp of the language as they should,"
said Mr David, who also speaks Mandarin.
Mr Darryl David.
Knowing basic English - the lingua franca of commerce and education
among other things - is just one part of the equation to successful
The other part is making sure that those who intend to sink roots
here know Singapore's cultural norms, something that Mr David feels
can be achieved through mandatory community work or even going
through a course that is similar to our social studies
Knowledge of a country is a requirement for citizenship in
countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom.
This two-pronged approach will help identify PRs whose intentions
are to make Singapore their home.
"I can't imagine why a PR, who is keen to make Singapore his home,
would reject the opportunity to interact and work with
"It's not just about money. We respect economic contribution, but
can we have some community contribution too?" he said.
Kerala-born Samir Salim Neji, 45, thought Mr David's idea will be
helpful for new citizens like he once was in 2004.
"I think it's a good suggestion that ensures new citizens integrate
more into the society and understand Singapore's culture... People
coming from different countries, like India and China, will then be
able to relate (to Singaporeans).
"There will be more understanding," said the managing director of a
Among the comments on Mr David's Facebook post on the subject were
many who supported his suggestions and thanked him for bringing it
up in Parliament.
On the English language, Mr Vincent K. Zen wrote: "The pioneer
leadership had slogged to nurture a dual language society, with the
emphasis on English as the working language.
"If we do not protect this legacy, a lifetime of work will come to
Another user Evelyn de Silva went one step further and suggested a
She said: "Brilliant! I completely agree. There needs to be some
form of testing required before gaining citizenship. Australia
provides a booklet which they study and get tested on."
National University of Singapore's sociologist Tan Ern Ser said a
language requirement will be "nice to have", but he is uncertain
about its implementation.
"I reckon most potential new citizens wouldn't find it too
difficult to meet this requirement.
"Still, we shouldn't impose a requirement which, perhaps, at least
10 per cent of Singaporeans cannot meet," he said, referring to
Singaporeans who do not speak English.
Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Leong Chan-Hoong
pointed out that integration is multifaceted and language forms
just one component.
Instead, it is more important to focus on adherence to social norms
and values, he said.
Dr Leong added that Singaporeans have difficulty differentiating
new citizens and transient workers.
"The ability to speak English among new citizens will not help if
the majority of the transient workers can't.
"Enforcement of social norms and etiquettes to both foreigners and
locals alike, including new citizens and transient workers, will
help ease tension," he said.