Chinese clan associations continue to play important roles in transmitting values to the younger generation and building social cohesion, President Halimah Yacob said during a visit to the umbrella group for Chinese clans yesterday.
"It is important for us to be connected to the past, to understand our present and also our future," she said, stressing the need to attract young people to engage in and take up leadership positions in the clans.
The challenge is how to do so in ways that are "compatible with their own aspirations and needs", she told reporters on the sidelines of her visit to the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA) in Toa Payoh. Possible ways include using platforms like social media and organising programmes that younger generations will find relevant, she added.
Yesterday's visit is part of the President's efforts to step up engagement with the Chinese community, with similar events planned for the coming months.
This is her first trip to the federation as President. She last visited SFCCA two years ago as Speaker of Parliament.
The SFCCA was founded when the main clans - including those from the Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hainanese and Hakka dialect groups - came together in 1986.
It moved into its current Toa Payoh site in 1997, and now counts more than 230 associations as members.
During yesterday's visit, Madam Halimah also highlighted the importance of clans in building cohesion through social activities and engaging other communities.
"We are a very unique society - multicultural, multi-religious - and every community's efforts towards contributing to social cohesion is very important."
In the past, clans played the key role of helping Chinese immigrants to settle down in Singapore, and they remain equally relevant and important in today's rapidly changing world, she said.
"Technological changes and advances can be extremely disruptive, and economic competition is very intense," she said, adding that SFCCA has the important task of preparing its members in adapting to and making use of these changes.
As part of the visit, she was led on a tour of the federation's heritage gallery by SFCCA president Tan Aik Hock, and mingled with over 20 clan leaders during a tea reception.
"I'm very glad that the Chinese clans and the SFCCA have been engaging other communities... (SFCCA) has been looking at ways to engage the young and I am confident that they will do that."