PM Lee: Eurasians have made many contributions to Singapore

This article is more than 12 months old

At 102, Mrs Therese Stewart is the oldest Eurasian in Singapore - four years older than even the Eurasian Association.

Yesterday morning, the sprightly woman stood on her feet and patted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the shoulders when she met him at the Eurasian Festival at Tampines Hub, before hugging him.

Moments earlier, Mr Lee had paid tribute to her late husband Stanley Stewart - a former head of the civil service who died in 1992 - and other prominent Eurasians who have left their mark on the country.

While the Eurasian community may be one of the smallest ethnic groups here, it has made many contributions to Singapore, said Mr Lee at the festival.

He also cited other prominent Eurasians such as Singapore's second president Benjamin Sheares, the first female Judge of Appeal, Justice Judith Prakash, the country's first law minister E. W. Barker, jazz musician Jeremy Monteiro, and Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling.

Mr Lee said he was happy to see a new generation of Eurasians doing well in many professions across society, establishing and making a name for themselves.

"I have no doubt that you will make many more great contributions to Singapore in time to come," he added.

Eurasians have been in South-east Asia for 500 years, the descendants of Europeans from countries including Portugal, Holland and Britain.

These pioneers intermarried with locals and, over time, evolved their own culture and characteristics, and became a distinct community.

There were about 8,000 Eurasians in Singapore before World War II, Mr Lee noted. The community has grown to nearly 17,000 now.

He highlighted the work done by the Eurasian Association, which he said has been active in rallying the community to serve one another.

The association provides aid to students through scholarships, bursaries and mentorship programmes, while its family support services arm also helps many disadvantaged families and seniors, he said.

It is also making a special effort to preserve Eurasian tradition and culture for all Singaporeans, and yesterday's festival organised together with the People's Association is a good step forward, he added.

Mrs Stewart, who was with her daughter Olivia, 74, said events such as the festival showed how people must be "open to other cultures and embrace others".

Eurasians such as Mr Kevin Martens Wong, 24, hope that more people will get to learn about little-known aspects of Eurasian culture such as the language Kristang, a creole comprising Portuguese and local dialects.

SingaporeLee Hsien Loongculture