Our diversity must not divide us: President Tan
10 October 2011
SINGAPORE: President Tony Tan Keng Yam has called on Singaporeans not to allow diversity to divide the country.
A key theme of his Opening Address to the 12th Parliament is how Singapore has to manage an increasingly diverse population, with different demands, expectations and needs, and still remain a cohesive society.
Dr Tan acknowledged that Singapore's politics is becoming more diverse and open, as more people are contending to represent different groups and interests.
"This is positive for Singapore. But in the heat of the political tussle, we must not forget that we all share the same goal, namely serving the people," he said.
"Hence all sides must take a long-term, national perspective, put society's interests above their own, and find the right way forward together despite different views and preferences. Only by getting our politics right and keeping it constructive and responsible will Singapore make progress."
President Tan shared a word of caution that Singaporeans should not forget to be sensitive to issues which can divide society.
"Our diversity must not divide us. Fault lines in our society have to be carefully managed. We have done well in strengthening racial and religious harmony. Now we must try hard to prevent a new fault line from forming between local-born Singaporeans and recent immigrants," he said.
"The government is slowing the inflow to ensure that new arrivals not only contribute economically, but also embrace our values and integrate into our society. Singaporeans, for our part, should help them become part of our Singapore family, just as our forefathers settled here in earlier generations."
President Tan said the govern¬ment will work closely with the people, engage Singaporeans more extensively on issues, tap their ideas and foster a greater sense of shared ownership.
"Singaporeans are active partners in our shared future, not passive bystanders as we progress. Citizens need to make the effort to think through the issues, weigh the options, and make the compromises and choices," he said.
One platform for such an engagement is the new media.
However he added: "On the Internet, truth is not easily distinguished from misinformation. Anonymity is often abused. Harsh, intemperate voices often drown out moderate, considered views.
"Other countries struggle with this problem too. We must find ways to use the new media constructively, to connect with the digital generation and sustain fruitful conversations on issues concerning us all."
President Tan also outlined some of the plans the government has in mind for different segments of society including the lower income, middle income and those who have done exceptionally well.
He also mentioned senior citizens and the younger generation. He said the underlying objective of the government's programmes for the people is to ensure that all citizens will always have a place in Singapore regardless of their background, religion or race.
Dr Tan said: "To achieve this, our economy must grow. This is basic to improving our lives. High rates of growth will become more challenging as we grapple with the limits of our land area and population size, and as our income level reaches that of developed countries. But we should still make 3-5 percent growth per year, and bring everyone along, provided we work together closely and wisely."
He added: "Our success is defined not just by material progress but also by our values and ideals. We want a fair and just society that ensures the well-being of every citizen; a gracious and compassionate community whose members care for one another; and a truly special Singapore, where our children can grow to be the best that they can be."
For lower-income Singaporeans, Dr Tan said Singa¬pore will continue to be a country where they could improve themselves and do well as the country progresses.
For the majority in the middle, President Tan said Singapore will always be a country where they can enjoy the fruits of their labour and have ample opportunities to move ahead.
For those who do exceptionally well, Singapore will continue to offer many opportunities to excel - a secure, nurturing base camp from which they could scale the heights of the world, said the President.
For senior citizens, Dr Tan said Singapore will always be their home where they can spend their silver years with peace of mind.
And for the young, "Singapore will be the place to pursue your dreams and fulfil your promise", said the President.
Concluding his address to the Parliament, President Tan said that very few countries have been able to achieve what Singapore has done and he called on every Singaporean to build on the strong foundation together for a better life and a brighter tomorrow.
Undoing community bonding
ST FORUM 13 OCT
LAST Saturday, a friend invited me to an event organised by the People's Association (PA) at Cheng San Community Club.
The ticket cost $12 per person, and a high-tea buffet was included. In attendance were Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Ang Hin Kee and PA chief executive director Yam Ah Mee.
While I appreciate the efforts of the PA and community clubs in organising such community-bonding events, it left me with reservations.
I was flabbergasted to discover that the organising committee, judges, sponsors and other VIPs enjoyed their high-tea in a closed air-conditioned room while the rest of the guests had theirs outside under a tent.
Why was there a 'divide' for an occasion aimed at community bonding?
On the same day, across the road from the PA event, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was officiating at an event marking the completion of an upgrading programme.
According to press reports, he emphasised that the Government was determined to improve citizens' lives, and this included community bonding.
What happened was unfortunate because the grassroots leaders who organised the community-bonding event were undoing what the Government is trying to achieve.
Lum Yan Meng
I simply love it when the Government scored own goals.
Actions speak louder the words and this double standards by PA just threw Toni’s words out of the window.
I borrow a quote from Animal Farm:
“All Animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” - George Orwell, Animal Farm.