Extra leave days to build unity among suggestions at Forward Singapore dialogue

DPM Lawrence Wong (in red) taking part in an activity as part of the Forward Singapore dialogue held at Yew Tee Community Club on Saturday. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
A total of 136 participants - all residents of Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC - attended the dialogue. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - An additional two days of paid leave for all Singaporeans to visit the country's heritage and cultural sites and better appreciate the Singapore identity - this was one of the main suggestions by participants at a Forward Singapore dialogue held at Yew Tee Community Club on Saturday.

The dialogues, which will see about 20 such sessions held in the heartland, are to allow more Singaporeans to contribute their views and ideas on refreshing Singapore's social compact and the road map for the next decade and beyond.

A total of 136 participants - all residents of Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC - attended the event organised by the People's Association.

The youngest participant was 16 years old, while the oldest was 75.

The discussions centred around the six pillars - to build, steward, care, equip, empower and unite.

The suggestion on two extra days of paid leave for all Singaporeans for cultural exploration came under the unite pillar, as participants said people could build unity by having a deeper appreciation for a shared Singapore identity.

They said Singaporeans can use the time to familiarise themselves with the national symbols and visit heritage and cultural sites here.

Under the equip pillar, participants suggested changes in schools, such as having subjects revolving around hands-on skills in primary schools.

This is so future generations would be equipped with life skills long before they enter the workforce.

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, who attended the event on Saturday, thanked participants for sharing their ideas.

He said that, together with the community, what Singapore wanted to achieve could be summarised into the three key themes of opportunity, assurance and unity: creating more opportunities for Singaporeans, giving assurance that no one should feel that they have to fend for themselves, and having a stronger sense of solidarity.

"We are doing this as a series of conversations all over Singapore in neighbourhoods everywhere as part of this Forward Singapore exercise," said DPM Wong, who is an MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.

"It's an exercise for us to think about how we want to chart our new way forward together in this new, post-pandemic world, because we all feel instinctively that it's going to be a very different world."

DPM Wong added that it is important that Singaporeans from all walks of life be engaged in the national conversation.

"In charting this new way forward, we feel it's important that everyone in Singapore has a say, you contribute to that process," he said.

"You give us ideas, suggestions, and we can chart this future together, co-create that future and shape it together."

Nanyang Polytechnic first-year student Safia Nabila, 16, was the youngest participant.

She said it is important for young people to be present at such dialogues, so they can take greater ownership of their future.

She added: "I think for my generation, being part of such dialogues helps us foster a sense of belonging in Singapore, by making our voices and ideas heard.

"For example, things like a four-day work week, which has been implemented in Raffles Institution junior college, why don't we implement that in our workforce as well?"

Her father, Mr Shabirin Ariffin, 45, an adjunct lecturer at Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Business Management, was also present at the event as a facilitator.

He said he initially signed up as a participant with his daughter, but was later asked to become a facilitator as he is a grassroots leader.

"This platform is actually an opportunity for any Singaporean to share his voice, to stop just complaining and start doing something," said Mr Shabirin.

"For my daughter, I asked her if she was interested in participating, because at the end of the day, the future of Singapore is her generation's to have and experience."

Mr Shabirin said he hopes more Singaporeans will register their interest and attend the dialogues.

"This is really the perfect opportunity for Singaporeans to shape where we go as a society, especially since many of us have many good ideas," he said.

"It may take a bit of time, but I hope more people will be motivated to come forward."

Nanyang Polytechnic student Safia Nabila with her father, Mr Shabirin Ariffin, who was also present at the event as a facilitator. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Close to 1,000 Singaporeans have signed up to be part of the dialogues.

A previous dialogue held in September saw National Development Minister Desmond Lee discussing public housing with participants.

The dialogue then was organised by his ministry.

DPM Wong launched the Forward Singapore exercise in June, with the goal for the 4G team to engage all Singaporeans in the national conversation.

The nationwide engagement exercise is slated for completion by the middle of 2023, culminating in the release of a road map.

On Saturday, he said he was heartened by the interest from the community.

"There will be many, many more opportunities to contribute, where you can go deeper into a particular issue that you care about, where you can even get involved in doing projects, to not just contribute ideas, but to take action and solve problems together," he said.

"To all of you, thank you for showing that we all care about Singapore's future, and we all want to do our part to build a better Singapore together."

On the extra days of leave, he said strengthening unity and identity is important, but he added: "I do not know if we can have two more days of paid leave."

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