Sri Lankans in Singapore

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Ceylonese / Sri Lankans in Singapore

Mainly Tamil and English

Also: Sinhala · Other languages
Hinduism · Buddhism · Catholicism · Islam
Related ethnic groups
Sri Lankan diaspora · Sri Lankans in Malaysia · Tamil Diaspora

Ceylonese / Sri Lankans in Singapore consist mainly of Singaporeans of Sri Lankan origin whose ancestors came to Singapore before the independence of the island. In Singapore, Ceylonese / Sri Lankans are referred to as Others usually.

Colonial period[edit]

The Jaffna Tamils are predominantly large in number among the people who went to Singapore and Malaysia in the 19th and early 20th centuries.[1] Ever since their arrival in Singapore, they were identifying themselves "Ceylonese". They dominated the bureaucracy in Singapore as the British preferred employing the Ceylonese as bureaucrats in many of their Asian colonies. Ceylonese Tamils made up an overwhelming majority in the civil service of British Malaya and Singapore prior to independence.[2][circular reference]

In 1909, the Ceylon Tamils, who had grown in number to about 300 families, formed the Singapore Ceylon Tamils’ Association (SCTA).[3] Sri Lankans in Singapore and Malaysia formed the 'Lanka Regiment' of the Indian National Army, directly under Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.[4]

Former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew once said:

In terms of numbers, the Ceylonese, like the Eurasians, are among the smallest of our various communities. Yet in terms of achievements and contributions to the growth and development of the modern Singapore and Malaysia they have done more than warranted by their numbers. In the early days of Malaysia's and Singapore's history the civil service and the professions were manned by a good number of Ceylonese. Even today the Ceylonese community continues to play a prominent role in these and other fields of civil life.

For example in Singapore, today, the Speaker of Parliament is a Ceylonese. So is our High Commissioner in Great Britain. So is our Foreign Minister. In the Judiciary, in the civil service, in the university, in the medical Service and in the professions they continue to make substantial contributions out of all proportion to their numbers. They are there not because they are members of a minority community but on the basis of merit.

The point is that the Ceylonese are holding their own in open competition with communities far larger than them. They have asked for no special favour or consideration as a minority. What they have asked for – and quite rightly – is that they should be judged on their merits and that they be allowed to compete with all other citizens fairly and without discrimination. This, as far as the Singapore government is concerned, is what is best for all of us. I believe that the future belongs to that society which acknowledges and rewards ability, drive and high performance without regard to race, language or religion.[5]

Some Ceylonese-founded institutions from the colonial era still exist. The Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple was founded by Ceylonese Tamils on the appropriately named Ceylon Road. Ceylon Sports Club was established in 1928 at its current premises along Balester Road and continues to function as not only a sports club but a social and charitable institution.[6]


In recent years, many Sri Lankans have been coming to Singapore. Sri Lankan domestic workers form a large number of the 150,000 maids in Singapore.[7] Many students from Sri Lanka have also been coming to Singapore for further education.[8] On July 31, 2010, the Singapore Ceylon Tamils' Association marked its 100th anniversary.[9]

Notable Singaporeans of Sri Lankan descent[edit]





See also[edit]


External links[edit]