SINGAPORE - Social togetherness is something we must nurture, with hubs like the Wisma Geylang Serai making a difference in the community, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Saturday (Jan 18).
Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, was speaking at the first anniversary celebration of the Wisma Geylang Serai, a social and cultural heritage hub near Geylang Road.
The celebration will last until Sunday (Jan 19) and is expected to involve 10,000 participants in activities such as an inaugural singing competition, a community batik painting event that aims to break the Singapore record for the longest continuous batik painting and other demonstrations and performances.
Mr Heng noted that Wisma Geylang Serai has been the hub of the Bazaar Raya Geylang Serai, which continues to be a huge draw during the festive season.
Last year's bazaar attracted a record two million visitors.
He noted: "What I found even more memorable was that the anticipation for Hari Raya was felt not just by the Malay community, but shared by people of all races. This social togetherness is rarely seen in other parts of the world, and is something we must continue to protect and nurture.
"I am therefore very glad that even as Wisma Geylang Serai celebrates Malay heritage and culture, the team (here) has made this place a vibrant space that is welcoming to all Singaporeans."
The facility offers amenities like childcare and senior activity centres that serve the community's daily needs.
It also hosts special events such as film screenings, rock concerts and even arts festivals such as the Singapore Art Week.
Mr Heng launched a garden space at the hub on Saturday as part of the eco-sustainability efforts of Wisma Geylang Serai.
He noted that the transformation of Geylang Serai over the years also mirrors the progress the Malay community has made here: "Each generation of Singapore Malays have been better educated, held better jobs and led better lives compared to their parents and grandparents.
"In 2017, one in three of our Malay workforce held professional, managerial, executive and technician (PMET) jobs, up from about one in 10 in 1980. Nine in 10 Malay households now own their own homes.
"We will continue to work together to empower future generations to reach their fullest potential."
Malay/Muslim organisations have also come together at the hub, including those that provide services such as social welfare support and last-mile delivery to the community.
Mr Heng added: "Your cooperation to help those in need reflects the Malay community's 'gotong-royong' (community spirit) and also the spirit of the Singapore Together movement.
"It recognises that every one of us can make a difference in helping each other grow, and building our future Singapore."
Dr Maliki Osman, Mayor of South East District and adviser to Wisma Geylang Serai, said that having crossed the one-year milestone, the team is already looking ahead: "We are preparing ourselves to provide better services, organise bigger events and coordinate the sprucing effort of the Geylang Serai Cultural Precinct."
He added that they have just completed a three-month envisioning exercise on what the precinct could look like, with about 2,000 participants, including grassroots leaders, residents and businesses, sharing their ideas.
Mr Heng also encouraged more people to come on board to help develop Geylang Serai into a cultural district.
"While the Government can set aside the physical spaces, and build structures like Wisma Geylang Serai, it is you - the people and our community - who are Geylang Serai's true heart," he said.