Sun, Aug 16, 2009
Singaporeans cannot be complacent

Racial and religious harmony

PM Lee mentioned that Singaporeans cannot be complacent. He said religious fervour is increasing, and we cannot completely avoid friction.

PM Lee said: "I understand other religions have different doctrines and may not all interact in the same way. But more importantly, it is the spirit and sincerity of interaction among religions."

He gave the example of an MP who told him of an incident that ocurred in 2008.

A Chinese old lady passed away. Her family members intended to use the void deck at the next block to conduct the funeral rites. Before they got the approval of town council, they started getting ready the mourning hall for the wake service.

But this place had already been booked by a Malay family for a wedding ceremony. The Malay family already obtained the approval of town council and had issued invitation cards and suddenly the location had been taken by someone else.

Of course, the Malay family was not very happy.

The town council tried to mediate and advised the Chinese family to shift the funeral rites to another void deck but the Chinese family was not willing to do so because they say that although the hearse had not arrived but the mourning place or the mourning hall has already been set up and to dismantle this would bring about ill fortune or bad luck.

PM Lee said that obviously, the Chinese family was in the wrong but the Chinese family was not willing to move it away.

He believed that through the mediation of the MP and grassroots leaders, the Malay family magnanimously agreed to shift their wedding ceremony to another void deck.

So the Town Council showed its appreciation by agreeing to provide the premises free of charge and help them to display notices to inform the wedding guests that the venue has been changed.

He stressed that whether it is a wedding or a funeral, these are sensitive and important events of life. When the 2 events are intertwined, emotions would run high and may not be easily reined in.

The fact that we could resolve this issue is because the Malay family agreed to give way. So harmonious racial relations are something that's worthy of Singaporeans' celebration. Singaporeans must treasure it and must never take it for granted.

He recognised that this incidents will not be the last one of its kind. PM Lee stressed that hence, the government must take a quick, sensitive, neutral but firm position regarding the issue of racial and religious harmony.

All parties involved should learn how to be conciliatory and think of other's interests.

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