SINGAPORE - Singapore has weathered past crises, including wars and disease outbreaks, but whether it can take on future challenges will depend on its resolve and cohesion, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (Feb 29).
"In a united society with strong solidarity, people will support each other. When the country is in crisis, everyone is more able to stand up to the test, stay united and help each other," he said in Mandarin at a Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC) event.
He thanked Singaporeans for their support and cooperation during the coronavirus situation, and called on them to stay vigilant.
Mr Lee noted that Singapore has also experienced other public health emergencies such as Sars, the H1N1 flu, the Zika virus and the fight against dengue fever.
And in the past 70 years the nation has also gone through the Japanese Occupation, the tumultuous periods following self-governance and independence, and two financial crises.
"In the face of every difficulty, we have had an indomitable spirit, grit our teeth and quickly recovered to move forward again," he said.
Mr Lee was speaking at the launch of the SCCC's permanent exhibition, titled Singapo(ren): Discovering Chinese Singaporean Culture.
The exhibition promotes uniquely Singaporean Chinese traditions, including those influenced by Malay and Indian customs, among others.
The displays include an interactive game inspired by kopitiam, or coffee-shop lingo, and a multimedia "feast" displaying well-loved Singaporean Chinese dishes like Hainanese chicken rice.
Mr Lee said culture, values and traditions can keep people together, and give a greater sense of recognition and purpose to the nation.
While Singapore's nation-building period is not long, the forefathers who moved here brought along the ancient cultures of their countries of origin, he said.
"Singapore 's culture and traditions have become richer over time, and is a treasured spiritual inheritance that we hope to pass on."
Singapore's Chinese cultures mingled with elements from other races have created something distinct from other Chinese communities in China, Hong Kong or Taiwan, said Mr Lee.
And promoting this unique Singaporean Chinese culture is the reason SCCC was launched, said Mr Lee, who is the centre's patron.
Mr Lee has stressed the distinctiveness of the Singapore Chinese identity on many important occasions, including at last year's National Day Rally and when he opened the SCCC in 2017.
"Our people must have a clear sense of identity, understand history, and know their own roots, and the contributions and achievements of our forefathers," said Mr Lee on Saturday.
At the same time, Singapore must be clear about what it wants to leave for future generations, so that it can be united in overcoming difficulties to create the future together, he said.
Cultural institutions like SCCC play an important role in improving confidence and in building social cohesion by creating greater awareness of Singapore's culture, said Mr Lee, so the nation can better plan its future.
"In this way, even in the face of various difficulties, everyone can weather the storm, continue to move forward, and let our small island nation continue to have a place in the world," he said.