Geylang Serai is no longer an enclave, but has become a well-integrated community that reflects Singapore's multiracial and multi-religious society, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.
In the same spirit, Wisma Geylang Serai (WGS) was conceived to be not just a symbol of heritage and nostalgia for the Malay community but also a vibrant centre where all are welcome, and which reflects the diverse interests and continuing progress of the Malay community, he noted.
In his speech at last night's official launch of the social and cultural heritage hub, PM Lee also pointed to how it will strengthen the cultural identity of the precinct, with its intricate architecture and traditional pitched roofs, and its mix of tenants and activities.
"WGS' aspiration for the future is to build a social and cultural hub in Singapore that brings together the different Malay/Muslim organisations, social and government agencies under one roof. This will allow WGS to provide various programmes and convenience, and this will better fulfil the needs of the community," he said.
Plans for the centre, located in Engku Aman Turn, were first announced by PM Lee at the National Day Rally in August 2011.
Since then, multiple government agencies such as the People's Association, National Arts Council, National Heritage Board (NHB) and various ministries have engaged residents and communities for feedback on how to make the centre part of a modern, vibrant community.
At the launch, Dr Maliki Osman, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs, said that the hub is a culturally distinctive and inclusive civic centre that celebrates the heritage of Geylang Serai and serves all Singaporeans.
10 FACTS ABOUT WISMA GEYLANG SERAI
• It is five storeys high and covers an area of 6,700 sq m.
• Decorations include features of Malay traditions.
• It houses Geylang Serai Community Club.
• There is a prayer room.
• The Kurnia@WGS office, a one-stop service centre for eight Malay Muslim organisations, is there.
• The centre can be used as a wedding venue.
• It is the training venue for the Singapore Malay Orchestra.
• A childcare centre will start operating soon.
• There will be a senior care centre.
• There are arts and cultural spaces, including the Malay Heritage Gallery
Dr Maliki, who is also the Mayor of South East District, where Geylang Serai is located, said the area "has always been a part of the Singapore fabric, reflecting the heritage of the Malay community interacting with their non-Malay counterparts".
Wisma Geylang Serai will be the centre stage for a variety of services, programmes and community-based activities, and facilities for every segment of society, he added.
Following its official opening, several community facilities and services are now available. They include NTUC First Campus' My First Skool at Wisma Geylang Serai, a senior care centre operated by NTUC Health Co-operative Limited and a family service centre run by the Singapore Muslim Women's Association and organised by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.
Another highlight of the centre is the Geylang Serai Heritage Gallery, which opened its doors to the public yesterday. It showcases the history of the area and traces its growth from an outlying settler community in the 19th century to the suburban residential and business precinct it is today.
"We hope that visitors will be enthralled by these lesser-known stories of Geylang Serai, and be inspired to contribute their stories and items to this gallery, as well as upcoming community galleries," said Mr Alvin Tan, NHB's assistant chief executive of policy and community.
Following PM Lee's 2018 National Day Rally announcement to make Geylang Serai a culturally distinct precinct, Dr Maliki said that plans are under way to enhance it further, starting with public consultations to garner ideas.
To commemorate the opening of the centre, there is also a three-day festival, which ends today. It showcases the Malay community's arts, culture and lifestyle with fireworks, outdoor multimedia displays and festive bazaars.
Housewife Yasmin Razak, 52, who visited the festival welcomed the one-stop hub. "To have so many facilities at one convenient location that everyone in the community comes to is brilliant."