Singaporeans urged to safeguard country's social harmony

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said the peace and harmony that Singapore enjoys today did not come about by chance and it must not be taken for granted.
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said the peace and harmony that Singapore enjoys today did not come about by chance and it must not be taken for granted. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

In the face of persistent intolerance and discontent globally, Singapore must continue to safeguard the country's social harmony, and ensure that its diversity remains a source of strength, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said yesterday.

Speaking at the West Coast GRC national citizenship ceremony, Mr Iswaran said the peace and harmony that Singapore enjoys today did not come about by chance and it must not be taken for granted.

He added that it "does not take much for negative sentiments to spread, and for differences to turn into deep divides in society".

Avoiding such an outcome requires the commitment and effort of every Singaporean, as it is not just the responsibility of the Government or the community, he said.

"Citizen contributions need not be about doing great things on a grand scale," said Mr Iswaran, who is also the Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations.

"It can be small and simple acts of kindness that can go a long way and have a significant impact.

"For instance, being considerate and respectful of one another's customs and practices; getting to know our neighbours, colleagues and schoolmates better over common hobbies and interests; or doing volunteer work together. All of these can help us build a more caring and cohesive society."

Mr Iswaran also urged new citizens to speak English with other Singaporeans "as it is the common working language used in Singapore".

He gave the example of Mr Rafal Roczniak from Poland, who could not speak English well when he first arrived here.

Mr Rafal, who is married to a Singaporean, signed up for English classes at the British Council and his improved command of the language helped him land a job at a bank.

Mr Rafal also attends community activities organised by a community club, where the couple meet other residents from their neighbourhood, said Mr Iswaran.

He added that new citizens "add to the richness and vibrancy" of Singapore with their diverse backgrounds and expertise, which helps to create new growth opportunities for the economy and workforce.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 05, 2018, with the headline 'Singaporeans urged to safeguard country's social harmony'. Print Edition | Subscribe