Three out of the four Ceylon Tamils who received awards at the Singapore Ceylon-Tamil Association (SCTA)’s 115th anniversary celebrations have already passed on. They include: environmental conservationist Mr Subaraj Rajathurai, aka ‘birdman’; former Secretary-General of the Management Institute of Singapore, Dr Ramanathan Theyvendran; and former Principal of the Sri Senpaga Vinayar Temple’s Saiva Samayam religious school at Katong, Mr R Sivasubramaniam.
Historian Mr Jeya Ayadurai was the fourth individual honoured. Mr Jeya Ayadurai and Mr Subaraj received the Lifetime Achievement Award, while Dr Ramanathan and Mr Sivasubramaniam received the Distinguished Service Award.
Acknowledging the strong contributions of Ceylon Tamils to Singapore and to their community, Guest-of-Honour, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Mr Edwin Tong, highlighted a few other prominent names: the late former Deputy Prime Minister Mr S Rajaratnam, the late Justice A P Rajah, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, as well as the late Dr Arumugam Viyiaratnam, the only Singaporean ever to represent Singapore in four different sports – soccer, hockey, cricket and rugby.
SCTA and Taha Mosque often extend invitations to each other for their Hari Raya and Pongal celebrations. Saint Hilda’s Church regularly offers their parking lots whenever SCTA hold big events at Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple.”
Mr Edwin Tong also acknowledged the contributions of the SCTA to harmony across communities in Singapore: “Over the years, the SCTA has built a strong network to connect Singaporeans from all races, religions and occupations through various outreach programmes.”
He said: “SCTA and Taha Mosque often extend invitations to each other for their Hari Raya and Pongal celebrations. Saint Hilda’s Church regularly offers their parking lots whenever SCTA hold big events at Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple. These efforts foster racial and religious harmony and a strong community spirit.”
In his welcome speech, President of SCTA, Mr Jeyaseelan Karthigesu said: “The SCTA is one of the three well known Ceylonese pillars or institutions in Singapore. The others are Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple , which is the 72nd historic site in Singapore and in a prominent landmark in the Katong area; and the Ceylon Sports Club, which is the intrinsic part of the iconic Balestier Plain, the 62nd historic site in Singapore.”
While celebrating the accomplishments, Mr Jeyaseelan also sounded a caution: “Our appeal is for everyone not to rest or take credit solely from the contributions and sacrifices of our forefathers, though we are certainly proud of our history. We must ask ourselves how and in what way we can contribute towards the vibrancy of our SCTA. If we do not come forward and get involved in community work, we may then be marginalised in our own country.”
In addition, he highlighted a concern: “Our challenge remains as to how we continue to engage our youths, amidst their busy careers and family lives to pursue a healthy interest in community work – social, religious and sports, for a better work life balance and for their own fulfilment.”
The event included a range of performances by Ceylon Tamil arts groups in Singapore.
If we do not come forward and get involved in community work, we may then be marginalised in our own country… our challenge remains as to how we continue to engage our youths…”
Award recipients (excerpts from citations)
Lifetime Achievement Awards
Mr Jeya Ayadurai
Mr Jeya Ayadurai’s contributions to the research, preservation, and education of Singapore’s history across more than three decades were acknowledged. Since establishing Singapore History Consultants, a research house on local history, he went on to establish a number of other heritage firms – Journeys Pte Ltd, Haw Par Villa Pte Ltd and The Changi Museum Pte Ltd.
Through his organisations, Mr Jeya Ayadurai has curated and implemented more than 100 educational tour programme and workshops in character and citizenship education. Over the last 28 years, these programmes have reached more than a million students and half a million personnel in the uniformed groups – national servicemen, military personnel and Singapore police force.
His group of companies also manages major heritage and cultural sites that were in danger of marginalisation or destruction such as The Changi Museum, Battlebox at Fort Canning Hill, Chinatown Heritage Centre and Haw Par Villa.
For his contributions, Mr Jeya Ayadurai was awarded the Honorary Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in June 2022 for his efforts in preserving Singapore, British and Commonwealth military history and war remembrance in Singapore. Mr Ayadurai is also currently serving as the Chairman of the Association of Singapore Attractions.
Mr Subaraj Rajathurai
Singapore’s first nature licensed tour guide, Mr Subaraj’s contributions in helping to conserve Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Singapore’s first ASEAN Heritage Park.
Entirely self-taught on nature and conservation issues, Mr Subaraj has participated in various environmental impact assessments over the years relating to projects such as the Cross Island Line, Mandai Reserves and Lower Peirce Reservoir. He was also involved in drafting proposed amendments to the Wild Animals and Birds Act, which was passed in March 2020.
In recognition of his contributions, a species of frogs that was discovered in 2019 was named after him – Subaraj’s Paddy Frog. Mr Subaraj passed away in 2019.
Distinguished Service Awards
Dr Ramanathan Theyvendran
Dr Ramanathan Theyvendran is credited for turning the then ailing Stamford Press into a multimillion-dollar international business. Subsequently, as Secretary-General of the Management Development Institute of Singapore, he turned it into a profitable international institute of learning.
Dr Ramanathan was also a strong advocate for the cooperative movement. As head of the Telecoms Credit Co-operative, he increased its membership and reserves multifold.
Dr Ramanathan was also head of several other non-profit bodies of relevance to the Indian and Ceylon-Tamil communities – the SCTA, the Ceylon Sports Club, and the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Dr Ramanathan was also a strong volunteer and donor to the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple. Dr Ramanathan passed away in 2020.
Mr R Sivasubramaniam
Mr R Sivasubramaniam was the Principal of the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple’s Saiva Samayam Religious School at Katong for more than 20 years.
As Principal, he initiated many programs including leadership training, upgrades to the curriculum and Thevaram competitions. His students won multiple awards at various Thirumurai competitions in Singapore.
He also volunteered with a range of other organisations serving the Indian community. He was a volunteer teacher with the Singapore Indian Association and the Sri Ramakrishna Mission school for boys, Secretary of an Indian Activity Group at a community centre.
In the late 1970s Mr Sivasubramaniam also served as President of SCTA. Mr Sivasubramaniam passed away in 2022.
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