Is Singapore ready for tough conversations?

Pedestrians walking near Ngee Ann City along Orchard Road.
Pedestrians walking near Ngee Ann City along Orchard Road.PHOTO: ST FILE

I must agree that the intent of having an open and honest conversation is laudable.

However, we cannot be sure that we are mature as a people to bear all the consequences of having such a conversation (Going beyond religious tolerance, May 4; and Focus on being human in push for harmony in society, May 8).

It is difficult to manage an open and honest conversation about sensitive topics given that issues like race, religion, language, class and sexual orientation affect people on a personal level.

One wrong word could be construed as blasphemy by some quarters.

It is also difficult to discuss one topic without veering into another, which may prove to be explosive.

More interest groups may be enticed to join the fray, thus complicating the issue at hand.

Once such conversations begin, regardless of the consequences, there is no turning back.

Harmony is fragile and it will take a long time for society to heal.

While those quick to be offended should not hold people ransom, we should not let others hurry us into such conversations merely because of freedom of expression.

Will Singapore be better with or without such conversations? No one can be sure where they will lead us. But are we prepared to put our harmony and peace at stake to find out?

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2019, with the headline 'Is Singapore ready for tough conversations?'. Print Edition | Subscribe