'Gotong royong' spirit comes to the fore at charity event

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim helping President Tony Tan Keng Yam add finishing touches to a pot of briyani at the President's Challenge Charity Briyani, his last one as President.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim helping President Tony Tan Keng Yam add finishing touches to a pot of briyani at the President's Challenge Charity Briyani, his last one as President.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

About 225kg of rice, 180kg of mutton, 80kg of chicken and nearly 90 volunteers to help - that was what it took to serve briyani at the President's Challenge Charity Briyani event yesterday.

With the many volunteers needed to make the meal, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said the popular dish best represents the "gotong royong" spirit - a Malay expression for a community that mobilises itself to help others.

"It's the spirit behind nasi briyani that is very important - self-help, helping other people... everybody making a community effort," he said at a lunch for donors who contributed to the challenge.

Similarly, he said the event - which will see Singapore's 71 mosques sell about 5,000 packets of the rice dish to raise funds for the needy later this year - is a good example of how Singaporeans can care for one another regardless of race, language or religion.

Said Dr Tan: "It's an effort that is organised by one community - the Muslim community - but supported by all of society."

At the event held at Masjid Khalid in Joo Chiat, Dr Tan added the finishing touches - yogurt and cashew juice, among other ingredients - to a steaming pot of briyani.

He then served about 20 beneficiaries, both Muslim and non-Muslim, from Ain Society and Sunlove Home.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, who also attended the event, said the Charity Briyani remains "a wonderful occasion for us to celebrate what mosques can do to continue to enhance the multiracial character of Singapore".

Citing how the mosques managed to tap many non-Muslim donors, Dr Yaacob said such events help to maintain and exemplify Singapore's "ethos of multiculturalism".

The President's Challenge is an annual campaign to raise funds for charity through various events.

Now in its 17th year, this Charity Briyani is Dr Tan's last one as President.

Asked how yesterday's dish compared with the last few years', Dr Tan quipped: "It's the best."

Rachel Au-Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 16, 2017, with the headline ''Gotong royong' spirit comes to the fore at charity event'. Print Edition | Subscribe