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Overcoming challenges with SG Together spirit

Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, at the Wisma Geylang Serai Second Anniversary Event, at Wisma Geylang Serai’s Persada Budaya Hall (Level 1)

My colleagues, Ministers, Mr Masagos Zulkifli
Dr Maliki Osman,
Associate Professor Dr Faishal Ibrahim, and of course
Mr Fahmi Aliman, Mayor of South East District

Para tetamu yang dihormati (Respected guests)

  1. Selamat sejahtera. Saya berbesar hati kerana dapat bersama anda untuk meraikan ulang tahun kedua Wisma Geylang Serai. 

    Distinguished guests.

    Uncertainties ahead

  2. 2020 has indeed been an eventful year. You saw my colleague, Dr Faishal’s speech earlier and the photographs, the challenges that we faced.

    a. The elephant in the room being COVID-19, which completely disrupted life as we knew it.

    b. What is perhaps even more remarkable is however our reaction to it. Singaporeans around the country all rallied together and it was remarkable how quickly that was, and just from the little snippets of the video that you saw earlier, that gives you a little bit of how Geylang Serai has reacted to it, helping one another, overcoming challenges, making sure no one is left behind.

    c. The fight against COVID-19 of course, is not yet over, is not yet won, and we must remain very, very cautious and careful but we are in a good position today. And I believe that it is because of the good work that all of our people have pitched in, helping one another, doing it together, whether it is to help the general public, our communities, businesses and of course, coming together in co-operation with the government agencies.
  3. Let me take this opportunity to thank the Malay-Muslim community for your very strong, faithful, steadfast support of our fight against COVID-19. Thank you very much.

    a. The Safe Management Measures (SMMs) have not been easy for the community – from the closure of mosques, to access restrictions for Friday prayers, and even this very popular Geylang Serai market, we had restrictions.

    b. Ramadan and Hari Raya Puasa also took place during the Circuit Breaker period last year.

    c. But it has been the full support of all communities in Singapore that has enabled us to keep the local transmission low and Singaporeans safe.
  4. There will be much uncertainty in the years ahead, particularly around the world.

    a. As a small and open society, Singapore will not be able to insulate ourselves from these external developments. We will be very much affected by these external developments.

    b. But to meet the challenges ahead of us, Singaporeans must continue to stay united; our younger generation, in particular, will also play a big part in this.

    c. Even in the midst of uncertainty and change, I am proud to know that Singapore will always be a place where Singaporeans can call home.

    Proud past, confident future

  5. WGS, if you look around us, is a good example of how we have built a home – with proud links to the past, at the same time, with a confident outlook and view to the future.

    a. WGS stands on the same spot as the old Malay village at the heart of Geylang Serai, one of Singapore’s oldest Malay settlements, and a key part of our national heritage.

    b. Geylang Serai itself has a proud and illustrious history. It was well known throughout the Nusantara as the Malay emporium of Singapore.
  6. Today, WGS is an unmistakeable feature of Geylang Serai, which has transformed into a prominent modern precinct, while retaining its cultural uniqueness and identity in our multi-cultural and multi-religious society.

    a. WGS has become a vibrant centre that reflects the community’s diverse interests and certainly, our continuing progress.

    b. It also serves as a civic and cultural hub for residents in the South East District and beyond – serving not only the Malay community, but as you heard Dr Faishal, to Singaporeans as a group in general.

    c. It is a now a site for the National Day mobile columns, where National Day, New Year’s Day fireworks are held, bringing together Singaporeans from all walks of life, safely, of course.
  7. WGS’s success would not have been possible without the hard work and contributions of key individuals from the community.
  8. Dr Maliki Osman, in particular, my colleague has laid a strong foundation for WGS over the past seven years all the way from conceptualisation right through to development.

    a. And today, here we are at DUA. Let me thank him very much for the good work that has been done, and may he continue to do so.

    b. Dr Maliki has been instrumental in building strong partnerships with the various Malay-Muslim Organisations, something that today we really cannot take for granted. These relationships go to the heart of being Singaporean and strengthening our community. They can never be taken for granted and these are efforts that must be ongoing, continuingly all the time.
  9. Associate Professor Dr Faishal Ibrahim has taken over the mantle of leading WGS from Dr Maliki Osman since September last year

    a. I am confident that Dr Faishal if nothing else with his singing skills will be able to do even better.  On that note, I make a mental note to remind myself to invite you to the next time I have a talentime. It does not have to be a Malay song.

    Overcoming challenges together

  10. Looking at the good work of WGS, I am very happy to note how much it also resonates with the mission of my Ministry, the MCCY to build a caring, confident and cohesive nation. In fact, I saw your programme that is infused with so much culture, arts, music, heritage, and I think there is tremendous talents, as again we have heard just now and I think we have experienced this evening.
    a. WGS and the Malay-Muslim community involved in this project have created a very good role model from which other communities in Singapore can certainly learn from.
  11. WGS has built strong foundations as a social and cultural hub for the future.

    a. By bringing together Malay-Muslim organisations, community groups and government agencies all under one splendid roof, different parties can now work together effectively to serve the needs of our people.

    b. For example, WGS is a one-stop service centre to support families and individuals, formed by the co-location of KURNIA@WGS, M3@WGS, South East CDC and of course, Geylang Serai Community Club.

    c. For instance, M³ has been instrumental in coordinating the efforts of MUIS, MENDAKI and MESRA, to improve their last mile service delivery of services to the Malay-Muslim community.

    i. Since January 2019, M³ has served over 4,500 beneficiaries.

    d. Over the last two years, WGS has organised social and cultural events that have brought Singaporeans together, young and old, all together to form one community;

    i. from large-scale ones such as we have seen, the Geylang Serai Hari Raya Bazaar

    ii. to smaller scale events such as Job Fairs and the Edusave Merit Bursary Award Ceremonies.
  12. On the video just now, we saw Dr Maliki unveiled a 550-metre long community batik painting installed along both sides of Geylang Road.

    a. The batik painting was part of a signature event that marked WGS’s first anniversary celebration last year, involving 1,500 people from 50 different organisations.

    b. It showcased an important cultural art form that is the pride of our community.

    c. WGS, like the batik painting, is also a symbol of Singapore’s multi-racial society, where Singaporeans from whatever race, whatever background, culture, heritage come together forming a community of persons, community of Singaporeans. These people come together, to forge a common objective, and achieve a common good which is the betterment of our society.
  13. These strong foundations have allowed the WGS to quickly coordinate with its partners and the community at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is these strong ties, social capital, built up over many years. This really shows the adaptability, the ability of WGS and the people behind WGS to quickly pivot, to re-organise, and to find new offerings for our people in different ways, different format. And I congratulate you on these efforts because these efforts to reach out continuingly means that we continue with the mission of leaving no one behind and making our offerings here, entirely accessible for everyone.
  14. With its significant role in the Malay cultural landscape, WGS has also stepped up to support Malay artists and cultural groups during the Circuit Breaker period. That is something very close to my heart and the work that I do at my Ministry. Thank you very much for all of this.

    a. WGS has engaged many artistes to produce music videos.  “Akustik @ Persada Budaya” is an example of a music series showcasing the talents of our homegrown singers.
    b. They have engaged numerous local production houses to set up an on-site studio here.
  15. These commendable efforts reflect the community’s spirit, true spirit of gotong-royong, and indeed the real essence and spirit of the Singapore Together movement.  

    Looking ahead

  16. Ladies and gentlemen, as we celebrate WGS’s 2nd Anniversary, we have looked back and now it’s time to look a little bit forward. We have seen a lot of exciting plans at WGS in the coming period ahead.

    a. The completion of Anjung – a multi-sheltered hard court, you saw the visual earlier, is going to be an extension of the current WGS building.

    i. This will provide even more space and opportunities for greater vibrancy and events in the area.

    b. Launched yesterday, M3 @ Geylang Serai, co-located at WGS, will also join the network of M3@Towns.

    i. It will focus on promoting healthy lifestyle, lifelong learning, improving the well-being of individuals and families, and contribute to the preservation of Malay heritage and culture. Something that is very important, because much as we would like to enjoy festivities, it is equally important that we appreciate where we come from, who we are, and our place in our society, our country, our Singapore.

    ii. Even prior to its launch, the M3@Geylang Serai team has engaged 50 households in Eunos, to gain a deeper understanding of the needs of the Malay-Muslim residents living in Eunos, Marine Parade and Kembangan-Chai Chee.

    c. To support Malay arts and culture, WGS will be engaging arts groups for views and ideas on how to make WGS a place for exploration and experimentation.

    i. This will build upon the success of previous efforts like the Youth Music Festival, Gala Laga 2020 (pronounced Ga-la La-ga). And certainly, we look forward to Dr Faishal’s performance.
  17. In the longer term, WGS will play a key role in developing Geylang Serai into a cultural belt:

    a. One which will remind future generations of our heritage, and yet remain vibrant and contextualised to the current times. So that it remains modern and relevant.

    b. Engagement with the community, particularly with the young people whose future is bright, despite the pandemic that we live in today and whose future it is that we must look after, as a commitment to the young people who live within our community.

    c. And I certainly commend the team at WGS for working with partners and other stakeholders to gather feedback from more than 10,000 voices who live, work and play in Geylang Serai.
  18. So, I encourage the community to come forward, continue to share your views, express your ideas, share your thoughts, give suggestions, involve yourselves in the discussions and activities at WGS.

    a. All of us have a stake in the continued success of WGS.


  19. Finally, let me once again congratulate WGS on your anniversary.

    a. In a short span of two years, this has become a place where not only Geylang Serai residents, but the Malay community, and as we heard just now, Singaporean community as a whole are very, very proud of.
  20. WGS exemplifies how we can rise to the occasion and overcome challenges like COVID-19.

    a. It is the spirit of Singapore Together that got us through thus far, and that same spirit will see us through into the future.
  21. The Malay community has amply demonstrated this SG Together spirit, which has been instrumental and foundational to the success that WGS has experienced.

    a. The community rallied together, made adjustments to their daily lives and practices, made sacrifices, looked out for one another and contributed to the nation’s fight against the pandemic.

    b. Together, we have moved as one nation for our common success.
  22. We look forward to many, many exciting years with WGS, together with WGS, as part of the community, in the community and with everyone around the community rallying together.
  23. Thank you very much for inviting me here this evening to share in your anniversary celebration, and I thank you once again for your contribution to making WGS what it is today. Thank you very much.

English translation of Malay paragraph

Respected guests

  1. Good evening. It is my pleasure to join you today to celebrate the second anniversary of Wisma Geylang Serai.


Last updated on 26 January 2021