Expand common space for greater cohesion

In the context of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call for "divine discontent", his point about complacency is particularly relevant, coming at a time when countries around the globe are exhibiting fissures among their peoples on the basis of race and religion ("Seeking the will to keep striving to do better"; Aug 22).

The strong bonds that have evolved between Singaporeans and the state over the years have created a more cohesive society that has nurtured a strong sense of national identity.

Yet, the groundswell of opinion is that more needs to be done to forge greater cohesiveness, harmony, understanding and interactions on a daily basis among the various races here.

An excellent way would be for the authorities to expand the settings and public spaces in neighbourhoods where people of different ethnic groups, cultures, creeds and origins can meet and learn to not only tolerate one another's lifestyles, festivals, cultural and religious practices, languages and social norms but also understand, appreciate and celebrate them.

In addition, people should be encouraged to appreciate conflicting viewpoints in a way that opens them to a larger world view.

These are ways to achieve greater cohesion, integration as well as racial and religious harmony.

As the Prime Minister took pains to stress, real interaction and social harmony cannot come about naturally or by chance.

As citizens, we have to work on it assiduously, to ensure that sensitive issues of race, language and religion are cast aside in preference for multiculturalism and the genuine desire to create a society that is united and cohesive.

It is perceived by many that unhealthy manifestations of race and religion add to the distance between the various community groups and accentuate racial stereotyping and negative assumptions.

We should particularly strive to de-emphasise our respective Chineseness, Malayness, Indianness and so on, and strive to focus on our similarities and commonalities. This can pave the way for closer racial interaction and religious tolerance.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)