SINGAPORE - Singaporeans must strive to better understand the various cultures and practices here, and form strong friendships across communities, Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min said on Saturday night.
"These relationships that bind us together will help us in difficult times," Dr Lam told residents of Ang Mo Kio GRC in a speech where he stressed the importance of Singapore's racial and religious harmony.
He was standing in for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the annual Chinese New Year dinner in the Teck Ghee ward of Ang Mo Kio GRC, where Mr Lee is an MP.
Dr Lam, who is MP for neighbouring Sengkang West, conveyed Mr Lee's apologies for being unable to attend the dinner to the 3,000 Ang Mo Kio GRC residents present.
Mr Lee went through prostate cancer surgery last week and was recuperating at home. However, he recorded a short video clip with his festive greetings to the residents, which was screened at the dinner.
About 100 residents present also signed a guest book, wishing Mr Lee well.
At the dinner, Dr Lam also said he was glad that many non-Chinese residents had joined in celebrating the Chinese festival.
The residents were treated to music performances in different local languages.
Dr Lam also made a call for tolerance beyond Singapore's main ethnic groups.
He said: "We also need to go beyond understanding the main races to respecting all people regardless of race, language or religion, who live and work in Singapore."