SINGAPORE - Thirty years ago, the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA) was formed to bring various clan groups together and pool their resources and manpower to better benefit the community.
As society evolved, so did the group's mission: promoting the understanding of Chinese language, culture and values and organising and backing many educational, cultural and community activities.
The umbrella body for over 220 clan, cultural and social groups is now building a Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at its 30th anniversary gala dinner on Monday night that the centre could be a platform to attract the young and showcase the unique Singapore Chinese culture.
"Because of the keen interest in Chinese culture, there has always been support from Chinese communities around the world for our cultural activities," Mr Lee added.
"However, for the Singapore Chinese culture to thrive, we still need to understand the unique historical and cultural background of Singapore and its developmental needs."
The new centre in Shenton Way, expected to be completed next year, has received over $28.88 million in pledges, and Mr Lee said the Government will cover 90 per cent of its developmental costs and contribute to its operating expenses.
He added that the SFCCA and clan bodies remain an important pillar of the community because they have continued to embrace change.
"I'm glad to see that the SFCCA is moving with the times, and has adapted its programmes and activities to attract new audiences so that it is not perceived as a social club for the elderly," he said.
The SFCCA has organised sports festivals for youths and from 2011, set up scholarships for those strong in Mandarin to further their studies at top universities in China such as Fudan, Beida and Tsinghua. The Federation also amended its Constitution on membership eligibility to be more open and inclusive, said president Chua Thian Poh.
The number of new Chinese immigrant groups in it has risen from four to 11. "Our council has now expanded to include several new immigrant leaders, joining us to helm SFCCA's leadership," Mr Chua said.
PM Lee said the SFCCA and clans are a useful bridge between the government and Chinese community in communicating important policies in Mandarin, and the Government will also work through the Chinese Community Liaison Group to look after various groups within the Chinese community.
New MPs Ng Chee Meng, Ong Ye Kung, Chee Hong Tat, Sun Xueling and Cheng Li Hui have also been invited to join the Group, which is led by Minister Chan Chun Sing.
Mr Lee also launched a new book on the history of Chinese in Singapore over 700 years, to mark SG50. Written in Chinese by 37 contributors, it is the first book of its kind.
"SFCCA has done much to help new immigrants integrate into our multicultural and multi-religious society, and maintain social harmony," Mr Lee said.
"I hope SFCCA will continue to lead clan associations, build on their achievements and continue to work with other ethnic and religious groups to strengthen our social fabric - in particular, to help our younger generation understand that the social harmony we have achieved has been hard-won."