Mr Inderjit Singh, former Member of Parliament,
Mr Deep Singh, President, Pardesi Khalsa
Mr Gurcharan Singh, Chairman, Organising Committee,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Thank you for letting me join you today at this memorial ceremony for the Sikh community, as we commemorate the soldiers who sacrificed their lives – soldiers who died, defending Singapore during WWII.
2. At the Kranji War Memorial, there are about 3000 Sikh soldiers, and today we honour their memory, their valor, and their courage.
The importance of Sikhs in Singapore’s history
3. Historically, our Sikh community in Singapore were largely associated with police and security work, having been brought into Singapore as policemen, keeping the community safe and secure. As early as 1881, the British government brought in Sikhs from Punjab to form the nucleus of the Sikh Police Contingent (SPC), whom were highly regarded for their bravery.
4. The Sikhs were important in building the foundation of Singapore’s defense forces. For example, Mr Jaswant Singh Gill headed Singapore’s voluntary naval forces when the British left Singapore – in short, he helped start our navy. Also, retired BG Kirpa Ram Vij was the first Director of SAFTI, overseeing its setup for the training of Commanders.
Sikhs’ continuous contribution to Singapore’s defense forces
5. As an independent Singapore grew from strength to strength, our Sikh community continued to be of crucial importance to Singapore’s defense forces. In recent years, Major-General (Ret) Ravinder Singh served as the Chief of Army from 2011 to 2014, and BG (Ret) Sarbjit Singh was the Commander of the RSAF’s Air Power Generation Command from 2008 until he retired in 2014. I understand that Sarbjit is also the first Sikh in the world to become an operational pilot for the F-5 and F-16 fighter aircrafts.
6. Across land, sea and air – across history, our Sikh community has helped defend Singapore and keep our nation safe.
7. Each of these milestones highlight the bravery, loyalty, commitment and dedication of the Sikh community. Your story is part of the Singapore story we all share. Your community and your values help inspire fellow Singaporeans of all races. Your strength and courage is part of what makes our multi-racial Singapore strong.
Sewa Pledge Initiative
8. Brotherhood and commitment remain strong in the Sikh community today. I understand that the Sikh community in Singapore has conceived a ground-up project this year called Sewa Pledge Initiative, where you collectively pledge to volunteer 550,000 hours of your time to help the community. For example, during the Sikh Heritage Day in June, the Sikh community partnered PA to organise an outreach event at Our Tampines Hub, bringing Sikh Heritage and traditions to fellow Singaporeans of different races. Such activities help us learn about one another. When we learn about one another, we grow closer together and understand one another better. And when we understand one another better, as fellow Singaporeans, we grow closer together as brothers and sisters. And in a democracy of deeds, that 550,000 hours of volunteering speaks a message of a Singapore where we look out for one another, as one Singapore family, as one Singapore Together.
9. Through today’s memorial service, we remember the courage and conviction of those who laid down their lives for Singapore. And in the present day, through your volunteering – your Sewa Pledge – you show your dedication to uplift the lives of fellow Singaporeans today and tomorrow. Once again, I thank our Sikh community for being an inspiration to so many of us across Singapore, throughout the generations, throughout the ages. I salute our Sikh community for this meaningful and memorable event.
10. Thank you.