S'pore's race relations - the unending effort to maintain a dynamic balance

An edited extract of Education Minister Lawrence Wong's speech last Saturday at the Regardless of Race Dialogue.

While government policies and community initiatives can set the tone and framework, race relations eventually boil down to how we interact with one another on a daily basis, says Education Minister Lawrence Wong. It is about how well we know the cult
While government policies and community initiatives can set the tone and framework, race relations eventually boil down to how we interact with one another on a daily basis, says Education Minister Lawrence Wong. It is about how well we know the cultures of our classmates, our neighbours and our friends, he added. ST FILE PHOTO

Since our independence, race has always been a fundamental and central issue in Singapore. Before 1965, we already had many diverse communities that migrated here from different lands and spoke different languages. Harmony in Singapore did not arise naturally between our different ethnic groups. Our founding leaders were determined to confront the dangers of communal strife and to forge a common culture as part of nation building.

That is why they set out, from the very beginning, to build a multiracial, multi-religious secular nation. As Mr Lee Kuan Yew said on Aug 9, 1965, and I am sure all of us are familiar with this quote: "This is not a Malay nation; this is not a Chinese nation; this is not an Indian nation. Everyone will have his place, equal: language, culture, religion."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2021, with the headline 'S'pore's race relations - the unending effort to maintain a dynamic balance'. Subscribe