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Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law at the Debate on President’s Address 2023

Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law at the Debate on President’s Address 2023 on 21 April 2023

  1. Mr Speaker
  2. To colleagues who are celebrating Hari Raya, I want to wish them in advance: Selamat Hari Raya. 
  3. Sir, over the course of this week’s debate, we have talked about the many challenges that we see ahead of us, the shifts that we need to make to in an increasingly difficult and changing environment. To face a harsher, more uncertain economic climate, to guard against growing inequality.
  4. Members have spoken about how we can strengthen our policies and our socio-economic infrastructure, in areas like education, employment, housing. Sir, we’ve heard good many ideas, and have had a lively, robust, cut-and-thrust debate. 

    Staying United

  5. I believe all these steps we’ve heard in this House, are all important, in and of themselves, as key success factors for Singapore. But equally critical and urgent is for us to be able to achieve all of this together, working in unity.  
  6. All of us: a people of different backgrounds and persuasions, a diversity of cultures, of faiths and language. Coming together to build consensus, create space and forge a compact that can see us thrive. And which can also help us withstand the growing external threats on the horizon.
  7. One shining example of how unity and cohesion has served us well was in how we tackled COVID-19 together as a nation. Prime Minister spoke about this, on Wednesday. Our nation’s collective sacrifices and efforts, with a high trust quotient for Government and institutions, saw us through COVID-19 and we came out stronger and more united after Covid than we were before.
  8. In a 2022 survey by the Pew Research Centre on how advanced economies were affected by COVID-19, Singapore was found to be less divided, and more united, after coming out of Covid. In fact, Singapore was ranked highest by quite a distance. This has in turn led to other positive outcomes, with our unity being the key driver behind the confidence that we have in our healthcare system, as well as in our economic outlook and recovery. 
  9. Working together, caring for one another, having trust in our institutions – these qualities have seen us through a crisis of a generation. Compared to many other countries, some of which were deeply divided to begin with, and they came out even more fractured after that experience. It is therefore vital for us that we continue to grow that reservoir of social capital that we have worked so hard on, over the years prior, to accumulate.
  10. As various members have noted in this House, we have long recognised the need for our country to be special, to forge a unique path as a multi-racial and multi-religious society. One that celebrates our ethnic diversity as a strength, whilst having a shared sense of belonging and identity. 
  11. Few societies around the world have succeeded in ensuring its citizens live harmoniously together, let alone one with as much diversity as Singapore. So I have no doubt that even as we have done well, and we have, our unity, our ability to stand together, will continuously be tested.
  12. We were an unlikely nation to begin with; and perhaps, we still are. So we must never lose sight of our roots. In 1965, we were forced out on our own. At that time, we had a diverse population with a Chinese majority. We were surrounded by much larger Muslim majority countries around us. 
  13. And as Mr Sitoh Yih Pin so emotionally and eloquently shared earlier, those were the founding circumstances of our country. And almost counter intuitively, our founding leaders chose the path of most resistance. We chose to go against the grain and embrace multi-culturalism and diverse ethnicities. To recognise and to uplift everyone. To make our country a Singapore for all, not just for Chinese, Indians or Malays, and having a space for all religions.
  14. It was this bold step, born out of extremely difficult circumstances, which became the original seed that has allowed our unique multi-cultural society to grow, to become more cohesive over the years, and to flourish. We will continue to draw strength from that unity. It makes us stronger, and it certainly gives us a basis to move forward. And we are stronger than the sum of our parts for that unity.
  15. I would add that we did not just proclaim that we want to be a multi-cultural multi-racial society. We worked hard at it, we worked hard to make it happen, through our policies and through our institutions.
  16. Our founding leaders, for instance, set out in our Constitution, the most basic document that we have in Singapore, for the Government of the day to always have regard for the interests of our racial and religious minorities. We set up the Presidential Council on Minority Rights. In almost no other place in the world is there an institution like the PCMR whose role is to scrutinise legislation after they are passed in this House, to ensure that they are not disadvantageous to any particular racial or religious community. We have laws like the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act, which set out clear parameters to deter hate speech, and other derogative comments on religious communities. 
  17. We do so because we want to ensure that every minority, whether in race or in religion, will have the space and freedom to practice their religion and cultures as much as possible. 
  18. Our Electoral System guarantees minority representation in Parliament. And by doing so, no political party can prevail by narrowly appealing to only one racial or religious segment of society. Our Ethnic Integration Policy allows us to have a balanced ethnic mix in our public housing so that we do not have racial enclaves like we see in many other countries. This is a policy that has ensured that for all of us, in our lived experience day-to-day – where we go, where we live, where we do our marketing – we come across a diverse range of different ethnicities, at our doorstep and in our daily lives.  It helps us to foster a strong relationship between our people, and it shapes who we are and how we approach ethnicity and diversity in Singapore.
  19. Yet, even as we have made this diversity a pillar of our strength, a uniqueness of Singapore, we must recognise that if we are not careful, it can very quickly become a point of vulnerability. When a society is as diverse as we are, harmony is not the natural order of things, and it is something that we must therefore constantly work on, to jealously guard, and to be always fearful that it is taken away from us.
  20. Around the world today, we see societies becoming more pluralistic, and as they do , they are becoming more fractured. The most recent edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer shows that trust continues to decrease in a majority of countries around the world. Not just trust in Government, but in all institutions – businesses, the media, and even in NGOs.
  21. As various members in this House have said, it is exceptional that Singapore has so far bucked that trend. This global trend of falling trust levels leads to deeper misapprehension and suspicion. The shared common space is reduced, and divisive ideologies take hold.  
  22. These are not just foreign concepts or phenomena. These are developments that affect us in Singapore as well. The increasing inter-connectedness of the virtual world means that many concerns that were once distant and foreign to us, now have the same immediacy and resonance, as much as local ones.
  23. As Mr Seah Kian Peng has pointed out, it opens the door to foreign influences seeking to create divisions in our society. To target and to accentuate existing fault-lines or perhaps even create new ones, by churning out increasing amounts of emotive and provocative media, with little or no basis in truth.
  24. And we must assume that these foreign influences exist here, on our shores. We cannot be complacent and take our cherished unity for granted, and we cannot for a moment assume that we will be immune to this.

    Forward Singapore

  25. This why our Forward Singapore exercise is so important. One pillar of this exercise is the “Unite” pillar, where we bring Singaporeans together to explore what keeps us going as one people. This is of course not a new agenda – national unity has been one of our foremost priorities for many years. But aspirations change, challenges have shifted, and the context in which we tackle these issues must also change. We must be alive to all these issues, take cognisance of them, and work out what would be the new approach in this new compact to tackle these issues. 
  26. For instance, how do we create deeper, personal, social bonds – particularly in a world that is so digitally connected. How do we nurture what is common between us, whilst at the same time celebrating our individual diversity? How do we stay united in the face of global headwinds?
  27. I have attended several Forward SG dialogues, met a range of people from different backgrounds, exchanged many views, some of which I will share here. 
  28. Overall, I am very encouraged by what I have heard, and I have come away with a significantly renewed sense of optimism, that Singaporeans care deeply about that unity, they appreciate how fragile it is, and they want to come forward and proactively play a part, to contribute, to ensuring that we do not lose that unity. 
  29. One key takeaway is that this unity is really not an abstract concept. Unity, cohesion, harmony – sometimes if you do not pay attention you might think it is just an abstract concept, but it is not. We achieve it not by ideas alone, but more importantly by having it embedded in our daily lives: part and parcel of what we do, where we go, who we see, and the people we socialise and work with. It is realised through these shared experiences, the various social and communal interactions that we may have, and the spaces that we have to do so.
  30. I have been Minister at MCCY for almost 3 years now. I started almost 3 years ago, when we were in the thick of Covid, we could not come together. Safe distancing measures meant that we had to keep people apart when our very mission was to bring people together. But over the last year or so, I have been fortunate to be at the intersection of so many different touch points of our community, where people from a broad cross section of society come together to pursue their passions.
  31. Whether it is in sports, arts, heritage, culture, language, our youths, the grassroots network, or the various Chinese clans and associations that I meet on a regular basis. All of them come together at the different intersection points. All of these sectors of our community represent tremendous opportunities for us to build our social capital and enhance our sense of cohesion and unity. These are the platforms on which people can engage with one another, day-to-day, and through such interactions, begin to foster deeper relations, and build trust and rapport.
  32. We cannot force unity and cohesion, but we can institutionally create the environment for people to come together, to inter-mix across different fault lines, across different segments of our society.  
  33. Let me  share some thoughts on what MCCY has done, and has in mind, to ensure that we continue to foster this deep sense of unity. 

    Social Harmony

  34. First, Mr Murali, when he spoke, talked about sports as a tremendous opportunity for us to level the playing field. Dr Tan Wu Meng, spoke about togetherness. And indeed, all of these are different ways of expressing that we need to have avenues for us to have social mixing between different segments of our society.
  35. Key to fostering stronger unity is to have both the occasion and opportunity for people from different backgrounds to see and enjoy spending time with one another through the passions they pursue. So that we are not stratified and constantly in our own social circles only, and in our own echo chambers. Stratification is very unhealthy, and it can lead to entrenched intergenerational stratification as well, if we are not careful. So we need to break down these barriers, not just along racial or religious lines, but also between other fault lines in our society, such as local and foreigner, different income groups and between young and old – intergenerational conflict.
  36. On this note, I am very grateful for the good work that has been done by many ground-up organisations. I have visited many of them – as I am sure many of my colleagues here have – whether it is the social service agencies, the VWOs, our clans and associations, our self-help groups, and so on. Through their own initiative and effort, people are brought together in a variety of ways. 
  37. For example, within our churches, mosques and temples, and other places of worship. These places of worship might serve a specific religious community, but they are completely agnostic when they run programmes with a broader social reach and impact. Many of our religious institutions also work together, to benefit their neighbourhoods, and in doing so, provide opportunities for their congregation to inter-mix and to get to know each other. 
  38. For instance, the Al Mawaddah mosque, Sengkang Methodist Church and the Arulmigu Velmurugan Gnanamuneeswarar Temple. They come from different faiths, but they come together to serve underprivileged residents in the vicinity, the neighbourhood in which they operate – different faiths bound by common social purpose.
  39. I was also recently at the Masjid Kampung Siglap for buka puasa, again as I am sure many of my colleagues here were. What was so special about that occasion? The mosque had invited groups from the surrounding temples, churches and laypeople in the estate to come and join them.
  40. And when I chatted with them, I found out that many of them had never seen the inside of a mosque, let alone experienced buka puasa. It was a special occasion to be able to share that experience together. Young children who were seeing this for the first time would, I am sure, have been left with a better understanding of the Muslim faith, and of the meaning of Muslim practices. And so the next time they step into a mosque or engage with a friend of the Muslim faith who is fasting, it would no longer feel strange or unknown to them.
  41. This is how we foster understanding and build unity, bit by bit, at a micro-level, but coming together, stronger than the sum of our parts.
  42. We want to go beyond religious tolerance, to better understanding and appreciation; and grow as a country to embrace differences in our multi-cultural and multi-religious society. That is our aspiration.
  43. To this end, MCCY has also recently refreshed our Racial and Religious Harmony Circles. At the local level, the Harmony Circles provide the structures that foster friendships and build mutual respect in local networks. These Circles have served us well over the years to bring different stakeholders in our neighbourhoods together.
  44. But to reach more and newer and perhaps younger segments of our community, MCCY will further support their efforts to digitise and expand their programme offerings, so that we can bring more people in to participate and to get to know one other.
  45. Starting this year, we will also be dedicating July as our Racial and Religious Harmony Month – not just day, but month – to highlight the efforts of our Harmony Circles and our community partners, and organise more activities to celebrate and to promote racial harmony.
  46. So that the significance of the day and of the occasion – the learning point – goes beyond just spending a day celebrating each other’s special occasions: coming in a different attire, celebrating by exchanging goodies and gifts associated with the festivities of other races. Going beyond that to better connect with each other through these traditions and share understanding of these traditions. To deepen that understanding and inculcate the values of openness and appreciation.
  47. Another step we are exploring is a joint initiative we will have with MOE. Students, as you know, are allocated their schools based on academic merit. But there is no reason why this same configuration should also hold, for co-curricular activities.
  48. The Strategic Partnership Co-Curricular Activity (SP-CCA) initiative allows secondary students to join in various CCAs outside of their schools, increasing the variety of CCAs that students have access to. This initiative also has other social benefits: it allows students from different schools, indeed of different backgrounds, to take part in their chosen CCAs. It helps them to come together outside of school to form friendships. Our students may attend different schools based on the academic curriculum offered, but these non-academic interactions need not be confined by these same terms. Outside of the subjects they study, they are more enriched when they engage with a wider social network, mix with and form friendships across different schools.


  49. Second, as we build a better home for ourselves, staying united as a country also means being inclusive, having a space for all of us.
  50. In this debate, we have heard a lot said about meritocracy, and how we will uplift our workers, our families, our children, to ensure equal opportunities for all. 
  51. And how, for certain groups, we will have to actively intervene, and shape the environment so that there can be better opportunities for all.
  52. At MCCY, there are also several ideas we are pursuing. My colleague, SPS Eric, spoke on Wednesday about enhancing the landscape for persons with disabilities, to alleviate the impediments they face, so that they can come along together with us. And beyond that, how we should open up opportunities for persons who are differently-abled, and differently-interested, to fulfil their passions and their potential.
  53. For persons with disabilities, one area we would like to spend a bit more time on is in sport. To spur greater sport participation among persons with disabilities, we have updated the Disability Sport Master Plan.
  54. Indeed, as I am sure many members who have had experience in this sector will attest to, sport can be a transformative tool, especially for persons with disabilities. It allows them to acquire vital social and communication skills, develop confidence about themselves, and feel no inferiority complex. Through sport, persons with disabilities are also able to reduce the social stigma associated with their disability, and are empowered to realise their potential.
  55. Launched in 2016, the DSMP has contributed to increased sport participation rates amongst persons with disability, rising from 28% in 2015 to 50% in 2019. And our target is 70% by 2030.
  56. We will develop pathways for aspiring para-athletes, so that there can be equal opportunities for talented Singaporeans, ability or disability, to compete at the highest levels. 
  57. This includes growing the pool of coaches, and better preparing them to coach individuals with disabilities by developing their professional and technical expertise in disability sports.
  58. We have also introduced a range of programmes, including learn-to-play programmes and the annual Play Inclusive campaign, where students from both the Special Education and mainstream schools come together, they train together, and they compete together in a unified sport competition, for example in goalball.
  59. By playing together on the same team, they bond with each other far better because they understand each other far better. Our students who participate in these programmes say that these programmes help to normalise what can sometimes be an awkward situation. They reduce the curious stares, and the moments of being overly impolite when they see someone who does not quite appreciate the circumstances they are in. It also allows them to interact in a positive context, and challenge assumptions about what they can or cannot do.
  60. An inclusive society is also one where diverse skills and talents can be better appreciated and valued. And those with these talents have opportunities to develop and to advance. We have done much to open up pathways in the arts. SOTA has made it possible to have a high-quality specialised arts education from the age of 13, and the University of the Arts Singapore now allows us to culminate with a degree, in the arts, in Singapore.
  61. We have invested in this, to provide a comprehensive arts education. For those of us who see this as their strength and their passion, there will be rich opportunity for us.
  62. And we will continue to invest in building up our creative industry, to grow a flourishing and globally connected creative economy for the arts through new business models, development pathways and internationalisation opportunities.
  63. We are unlocking these new opportunities with the next iteration of Our SG Arts Plan and Our SG Heritage Plan, so that we do not just stop at providing added qualifications, but also create an entire cultural ecosystem for those interested to embark on a career, and fulfil their aspirations and their potential. I think this is central to our notion of unity.
  64. We have also stepped up our support for those who excel in sports, by providing pathways through the High-Performance Sports programme, and enable our TeamSG athletes to perform at their very best.
  65. A key part of this ecosystem is the Sport Excellence Scholarship, or Spex, which is offered to our athletes with the potential to excel at Major Games or world-level events. Take Shanti Pereira, for instance, our national sprinter. Many of you I’m sure would have been very proud to have seen her break her records, making great strides recently, quite literally. 
  66. Shanti returned last November to the SpexScholarship. She spent some time away from the SpexSchoalrship, but after discussing with her coach and the NSA, decided to come back full-time supported by the SpexScholarship, which grants her an allowance and benefits such as enhanced sport science and sport medicine support. She now trains full time, competes overseas, all supported by Spex. Her decision, as you know, has paid off well with her recent performances. 
  67. We expanded this support, so that athletes with that potential can focus full-time on their sporting pursuits, and do us proud in Singapore.
  68. Beyond supporting our top athletes, we will also enhance the accessibility of our programmes and facilities, so that even more can participate in sports. Perhaps not just for fitness, but also socially, as a platform for mixing and bonding, as Mr Murali had suggested.
  69. Recently at Budget, I had announced that we will put in an additional $100 credit in the ActiveSG accounts of children aged 4 to 12, so that they can start accessing these programmes – not just from a fitness, but from a social mixing perspective – from an early age.
  70. In this House over the last few days, various members have highlighted that Singapore’s concept of meritocracy could be too narrow. It needs to be refreshed to look beyond academic domains of schools and grades, where diverse skills and talents in non-academic domains such as sports and arts are also recognised. And everyone is given an opportunity to pursue their passion, hone their talents, and do their best in their chosen field.
  71. We agree with that. That is why at MCCY, our work is focused on opening up these different pathways in the arts and sports for instance, for us to celebrate and include those of different merits.
  72. Sir, while on inclusion, Mr Singh earlier spoke about the English proficiency test, raising it again. Let me share my thoughts in this House on the test. 
  73. I know many people have different views on this – and I respect them. I think there is range for a variety of different views on what weight you might place on it. 
  74. My own view is that a knowledge of English at the working language, while helpful, should not be a defining or indeed a limiting factor. Which might happen if you introduce it as a test, a single-point test. 
  75. After all, a significant proportion of Singaporeans throughout our history have not been able to speak English well, many of our parents and grandparents amongst them. My own grandmother would not pass this test. She is 96 years old today, and she probably still would not pass this test today. But she continues to be a source of joy and value to the family, in different ways, many of them intangible. 
  76. And if we had, years ago, applied this test, then someone like her would not have made it into Singapore. So we have got to think about that as well, as a consideration. That is why I urge this House, as we talk about and think about this issue, let us not close our hearts to this, let us not be closed about this, but to be open. 
  77. Mr Singh said the key is in integration, and I think that is the point I have been emphasising. How do we integrate them? Is a single-point English test the best way of doing this? Or perhaps we look more broadly at the process of integration, which I believe is a long-term process.
  78. After all, our Constitution sets out the criteria: you have got to be in Singapore for a period of time as a resident. And that requires, as we assess them, sustained efforts from all parties to look at this, as a holistic approach.
  79. Our immigration framework was tightened significantly in 2009, so that a broader range of factors can be considered. To assess not just the applicant’s ability to contribute, but also his or her ability to integrate well into our society, and importantly their commitment to sink their roots here. This includes factors such as length of stay in Singapore, family ties to Singapore, and whether the applicant has studied in our national schools or done National Service, for example. I believe these are equally – if not, in some cases, more – effective as a marker of integration.
  80. We currently do not have a single-point English test or proficiency requirement for naturalisation, unlike some other countries. If you look at Japan, South Korea, or the UK, I think they have a language test requirement. And it is likely to be because they have a single, more common unified operating language. 
  81. That is unlike Singapore, where we have four different official languages. Indeed, as Mr Singh would appreciate, the Constitution itself currently provides that one of the markers for naturalisation is  working knowledge of any of the four official languages.
  82. I would say, not that English proficiency is not important – I think there is value in that – but not make it a single qualifying test, do not make it a single-point assessment for citizenship. 


  83. Sir, let me now turn to our youths.  The Forward SG exercise is about charting our way forward. Youths are an important part of this journey. 
  84. In order to forge a viable compact, we must understand as well as support their dreams and aspirations, in a completely different paradigm from when we were growing up. We must give them a stake in Singapore’s future, have a voice.
  85. Our young people today have to come to terms with a myriad of complex world issues. Challenges and constraints such as climate change, economic uncertainty, slowing social mobility. And they will be growing up in the context of an ageing population that Minister Ong Ye Kang spoke about. For all of these, there are no easy or quick solutions.
  86. Yet, as my colleague MOS Alvin Tan and many other members of this house have articulated, our youths are undaunted, and have expressed a keen desire, on the contrary, to be a part of the solution.
  87. In my own engagements with youths, I have found them to be very much seized with the issues of today. And they know that the solutions that they can contribute to will make an impact on their lives tomorrow.
  88. After the President’s Address last week, I came across an article in TODAY online.  Several youths were interviewed on how they wanted to be involved in nation-building. Some of their reactions piqued my interest, so I arranged to meet with a few of them and several other youths to learn for myself and hear for myself first-hand: what they were most concerned about, how they saw their role as future leaders, and what more we could do to partner with them, to engage them so that they can be part of that solution.
  89. One point that came up was the desire for a more in-depth discourse.  They hoped for more details as to how their feedback and suggestions on policies were being considered by the Government, and wanted to understand how their suggestions might result in some trade-offs that perhaps that had not thought about. 
  90. We agreed that instead of taking an adversarial approach to policy suggestions, we could perhaps engage on these trade-offs and share views on opportunity costs, and develop a deeper understanding of these considerations that would be helpful to making policy suggestions. These were all very constructive suggestions.
  91. With this in mind, later this year, we will introduce youth panels, for youths to develop policy recommendations together with the Government, with some differences. These panels will be youth-led and will be resourced by agencies like the National Youth Council and perhaps the appropriate agencies, depending on the domain. 
  92. They will work on a topic or policy which resonates with youths of today: something that is topical, that has traction, interest, and a fair number of young people support a discussion on the topic. We will share our policy considerations and trade-offs, exchange data points, and most importantly think with them on these questions. Against this backdrop, we will create space for our young people to take the lead in the deliberations and formulate suggestions.
  93. Through these panels, we want to engage our youths in meaningful and constructive discourse, where they can also listen not just to us in Government or in the agencies, but also to the experience of other people in their position, appreciating that opinions may be different from their own, and weighing competing priorities, looking at both short term as well as having a longer lens perspectives of these trade-offs. 
  94. Together, they will develop policy considerations, and present them to the Government. 
  95. In turn, these recommendations will be taken seriously. We will make a conscious effort to close the loop with them, whatever the outcomes might be. Those which merit further discussion, we will consider for them to be presented here in Parliament. MCCY can consider sponsoring a White or Green Paper on the proposal so that they can be considered in this House, and we can all have a robust debate on them. And those involved in giving views or preparing the recommendations can see the impact of the work that they do.
  96. We are formulating this carefully, and more details on these youth panels will be provided when ready. Over the next few months, we will consult with youths on the panels and on the key policy issues that they wish to see under the youth panels. We look forward to the active participation of our youths to shape the future of our country.
  97. Sir, I am confident that our youths will welcome this opportunity. Through my interactions with them, I have always been encouraged by the heart that they have in bringing Singapore forward. 


  98. Sir, let me now conclude. Earlier this month, President Halimah and I met our Youth Corps Leaders at the commencement ceremony of their Leaders Programme. 
  99. One of them, Lim Jia Yi, led a project called We+65. Started in 2022, this project reaches out to the less mobile seniors in Sembawang, with activities that help to improve their mobility as well as their cognitive functions, born of her realisation that perhaps the seniors were less connected, had less resources available to them. This was done as part of a volunteering programme with the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) and Blossom Seeds Limited, a charity operating in that area.
  100. If you speak to Jia Yi, her sense of responsibility and her commitment to community will shine through clearly. She is passionate about reaching out through the generations, to befriend seniors, even as she herself is currently a full-time medical student. Busy as she is, she volunteers her time in other charitable events and projects as well. And while she is young, her leadership was apparent, to bring and convene her fellow youths together, to rally them to support her cause.
  101. Jia Yi is remarkable, but she is also not an outlier. She is one of the many Singaporeans who continue to step forward without being asked, to contribute their time and their treasure. We will continue to work with people like Jia Yi, striving to be those granules of sand which connect us to the bigger blocks of our society, our institutions, and collectively make us stronger: across generations, racial and religious groups, across the diversity of our population.
  102. When I meet people like Jia Yi, I am reminded that we are already different from so many others in the world, with what we have. A diversity and harmony that has resulted from a system that structurally fosters equality, social mixing and integration. This is what the wisdom of an earlier generation of leaders has given to us, and has allowed us to build on a strong foundation, to chase our dreams and fulfil our ambitions.
  103. So let us not throw out what has worked well for us over the years. Sometimes we have to look back to look forward. These are the elements, the fundamental building blocks that have made it work for Singapore: to continually work at fostering harmony between diverse communities of different races and faiths, creating opportunities for people of all abilities, talents, interests and passions to excel, powered by a culture of inclusion, care and volunteerism.
  104. Sir, the Semangat Yang Baru exhibition opened yesterday, and I went to visit it. I encourage members here in this House to visit it, at the National Museum. It is free for Singaporeans and PRs. 
  105. It was an evocative and inspiring exhibition, also thought-provoking, and I left it feeling a deep sense of pride. If there was one lesson that I learnt from this exhibition, it is that as a nation we do not have much, we never had. We do not have natural resources, and we do not have the blessings of a natural hinterland that we can take advantage of, or indeed space, which comes at a significant premium for us. 
  106. But what we have is our people – we have always had that. We have always done much better, punched above our weight, gone further, with our people. 
  107. If we can continue to stand as one united people, as we declare in our national pledge, then I have no doubt that we will overcome these challenges with confidence, and we will see a vibrant, thriving Singapore for many generations to come.  
  108. Mr Speaker, I support the motion. 
Last updated on 22 April 2023