Singapore's racial and religious harmony came from hard work, deliberate policies: President Halimah Yacob

President Halimah Yacob called on Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 14, 2019. With her are Singapore Ambassador to China Stanley Loh (fourth from left), Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu (fifth from left), Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and Social and Family Development Sam Tan (second from right), and other officials from the Singapore delegation. ST PHOTO: LIM YAN LIANG

BEIJING - Singapore's racial and religious harmony today is the result of decades of hard work and deliberate policies that came from holding firm to an early vision of a united Singapore that is for all races, President Halimah Yacob has said.

In an interview with the People's Daily newspaper ahead of her three-day visit to Beijing that began on Tuesday (May 14), Madam Halimah was asked about Singapore's experience in building a multiracial and multi-religious society.

She noted that race, language and religion have been fundamental issues since the beginning of Singapore's nationhood, and that Singapore's founding fathers enshrined their vision of a multiracial and multi-religious society in the Republic's Constitution.

"Ever since then, we have worked hard to make Singaporeans one united people, regardless of race, language or religion," she said.

Policies ranging from public housing to education and national service enabled Singaporeans of different races, religions and economic backgrounds to co-mingle throughout life, while the public service recruits and promotes strictly on merit, said Madam Halimah.

"Harmony is not achieved easily or by chance," she said. "It is the result of continuous hard work and deliberate policies based on the rule of law, meritocracy, justice and equality."

Singaporeans also saw the value of forming a common national identity based on core values such as fairness and meritocracy, while celebrating multi-ethnic diversity and maintaining one's own cultural and religious practices, she added.

The Government has also worked to ensure all ethnic and religious groups enjoy fair political representation and the social space to pursue their faiths, she said, while strict laws safeguard against actions that denigrate ethnic and religious groups and undermine social harmony.

Besides meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, Madam Halimah is also attending the inaugural Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilisations (CDAC), which Beijing said aims to deepen cooperation among Asian countries such as in the field of culture, tourism and media.

More than 2,000 officials and representatives from 47 countries throughout the region are scheduled to attend the CDAC, which kicks off on Wednesday.

With many societies around the world currently experiencing discord, distrust and division among communities, the conference is timely as there is an urgent need for dialogue, said Madam Halimah.

"For our global community to thrive, we need peace, harmony and cooperation among countries and peoples regardless of ethnic, religious, historical, social and economic backgrounds," she said.

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