SINGAPORE - Geylang Serai is no longer an enclave, but has become a well-integrated community that reflects Singapore's multiracial and multi-religious society, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (Jan 26).
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 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 the official launch of the social and cultural heritage hub, PM Lee also pointed to how WGS will strengthen the cultural identity of the precinct, with its intricate architecture and traditional pitched roofs, and its mix of tenants and activities.
"WGS's 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.
Located in Engku Aman Road, plans were first announced by PM Lee at the National Day Rally in August 2011.
Since then, multiple government agencies - People's Association (PA), Ministry of Social and Family Development, Ministry of Health, National Arts Council (NAC), National Heritage Board (NHB) and Ministry of National Development - have engaged residents and communities for feedback on how to make the WGS part of a modern and vibrant community.
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.
Orkestra Melayu Singapura is the first resident arts group to take up residence and operate there and will receive support and funding from WGS. The NAC is also looking to add four more arts groups.
Another highlight of the WGS is the Geylang Serai Heritage Gallery, which opened its doors to the public on Saturday. 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.
Developed and managed by NHB, in partnership with PA and the Malay Heritage Foundation, the gallery features the experiences and memories of past and present Geylang Serai residents through images and artefacts, some of which were contributed by residents themselves. They include photographs of the precinct as well as a wedding gift from the 1990s.
"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.
To commemorate its opening, WGS is also holding a three-day festival, which runs till Sunday. It showcases the Malay community's arts, culture and lifestyle with a flurry of fireworks, outdoor multimedia displays and festive bazaars.