Ignore distractions over Unesco bid

Customers eating at a hawker centre in Ang Mo Kio.
Customers eating at a hawker centre in Ang Mo Kio.ST PHOTO: JOSEPH CHUA

I'm truly amused by how some "kiasu" Malaysians are getting their knickers in a twist over Singapore's bid to file our hawker culture as an intangible heritage at Unesco (Penang proposes joint S'pore-Malaysia Unesco hawker culture bid, May 5).

As Singaporean food critic K.F. Seetoh has rightly pointed out, our hawker culture is not all about food.

In Singapore's case, it is also about a conscious effort by the authorities to cultivate a shared multicultural heritage between people of different races, religions, nationalities and culinary traditions at our hawker centres.

It seems such a holistic approach to bond diverse cultures through food is lost on some Malaysians.

They can't help themselves from seeing Singapore's Unesco bid as "competition", even though they have already proclaimed their country the superior street food paradise, to paraphrase a politician from Penang.

If Penang's and Malaysia's hawker cultures are so superior, why harm their quest for global recognition by seeking a joint bid with an inferior entity?

We should simply proceed with our solo bid without being distracted, delayed and thwarted by unnecessary historical baggage.

While Singapore may share some similarities with Malaysia, we have also developed very differently in many ways, especially over the last 50 years.

These differences are obvious in our attitude towards hawker culture, for example, as well as our own unique versions of fried kway teow, laksa, wonton mee and hokkien mee, among others.

So to each his own, please, especially when, unlike Penang, Singapore is a sovereign and independent nation.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2019, with the headline 'Ignore distractions over Unesco bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe