Malayalees are significant part of Singapore Indian community: PM Lee

“The Malayalees are a small but significant part of the Singapore Indian community. Former President Devan Nair, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, and MAS Managing Director Ravi Menon are some outstanding Malayalees who have left a mark on Singapore,” asserted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong while speaking on the occasion of 100th anniversary of the Singapore Malayalee Association.

Singapore Malayalee Association
Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore receiving a nettipattam (an elephant caparison, a cloth made of gold and copper that is laid over the heads of elephants as a decoration and protection) as a token of appreciation from Jayakumar N, President of the Singapore Malayalee Association on the occasion of completion of centenary of Singapore Malayalee Association. Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry)was also present on the occasion. Photo courtesy: Facebook

Praising the diversity of the Malayalee community, PM Lee said, “The Malayalees have long embraced and celebrated diversity. Counting Hindus, Muslims, Syrian Christians, and Roman Catholics in their midst, they are a fine example of turning diversity into strength.”

He added, “The Malayalee community has shown how Singapore can turn diversity into its strength. One of the reasons behind the Malayalee community's success is its embracing of diversity. Singapore needs to do the same on a national level, with our different races and religions.”

Malayalee ladies giving performance of oppana. It is popular in the Mappila (Kerala Muslim) community of Kerala. Women dancers sing and clap their hands rhythmically, and dance around a bride in simple steps. Photo courtesy: Facebook
Malayalee ladies giving performance of oppana. It is popular in the Mappila (Kerala Muslim) community of Kerala. Women dancers sing and clap their hands rhythmically, and dance around a bride in simple steps. Photo courtesy: Facebook

Reiterating commitment for multi-culturalism in Singapore and expressing concern on the problem of extremism in several countries, PM Lee said, “In many countries, exclusivity and extremism are growing, and breeding racial and religious distrust. Singapore is not immune to these diseases of the spirit. But we can protect and strengthen our multicultural system to make our society more resilient against such external pressures.”

PM Lee with his teacher Ravi
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong along with his Malayalee teacher Ravi who taught him Physics and Mathematics in Catholic High School. PM was delighted to see his teacher at the programme. Photo courtesy: Facebook

While small in size – there are just 26, Malayalees in Singapore – the community has contributed significantly to Singapore’s development, Lee said.

There are also three Malayalees in Parliament currently: Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary, and MPs Vikram Nair and Murali Pillai.

In a Facebook post, PM Lee congratulated the Singapore Malayalee Association for completing its centenary in the country and said, “Over the years, the Singapore Malayalee Association has helped to uplift the community, and to enrich and strengthen our social fabric. My congratulations to the Association on its centenary!”

The Singapore Malayalee Association has also set up a SGD1 million financial aid fund for needy students as well as a wellness centre for the elderly to mark its centenary.

The Association also paid tribute to other outstanding members of its community, including poet and social activist M K Bhasi, dance pioneer Santha Bhaskar and ambassador Gopinath Pillai, who is senior adviser of the association and chairman of the Indian Heritage Centre.

Since the formation of the Association in 1917, it has helped look after the welfare of thousands of Malayalees who travelled from Kerala.

PM Lee concluded, “Your story is an important strand in our historical and cultural tapestry.”


Ashraf Jamal
Ashraf Jamal – Senior Writer

Ashraf Jamal brings a rare depth to writing equipped with a degree in journalism, a postgraduate degree in political science, and a degree in law from the Allahabad University. His experience includes editing and publishing the Northern India Patrika and writing for Times of India for almost a decade covering just about any topic under the sun including NRIs and Indian diaspora.


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