By: Bryan Kwa
At the sidelines of the Orange Ribbon Run 2015 that marked 50 years of racial harmony in Singapore, Chairman of OnePeople.sg, Dr Janil Puthucheary shared with Popspoken that he feels racial harmony in Singapore is “really quite exceptional” but “is not something to be taken for granted”. A whopping 7,000 people participated in the third edition of the Orange Ribbon Run – an event organized by OnePeople,sg, a national body that promotes multiracialism in Singapore. The event saw the support of Team Singapore athletes including former Olympian, Mr. C. Kunalan, SEA Games 2015 athletes and players from the Football Association of Singapore.
When we probed further on how racial harmony could be promoted, Dr Janil replied, “There’s no one single approach… We organise different types of dialogues, debates and discussions about the issues of racial harmony, religious harmony and moving beyond this, tolerance and trust is our mission. So we are talking about it. We are talking about it, and we are encouraging people to think about it and to believe that this is something worth fighting for, worth standing for.”
On how rising racial tensions in neighbouring Malaysia affecting Singapore, Dr Janil noted, “Well, you know, our political structure in Singapore is such that we can’t play racial politics. That was something that was set up in 1965, very deliberately. And I think it’s something most Singaporeans – almost, I believe, all Singaporeans – believe it’s a strength that we have in our nation. That people are not going to get support if they try to feed into racial anxieties, if they try to stir up racial tensions, and it amounts to some degree of agitation.” He believes that our political structure is such that we will always have a model of having to “appeal to, engage with, and serve the broad middle ground of most Singaporeans, if not all Singaporeans.”
We all share a common humanity: DPM Teo
Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs graced the event.In his speech, he credited the government for progress made in the sphere of racial harmony.
He touched upon the government’s success of deliberate policy making (e.g. bilingualism, common education system, integrated housing, fairness in the workplace etc), which has succesfully resulted in cohesively integrating people from different backgrounds.
DPM Teo also rallied the crowd to open their hearts and minds, and come together as one people. He believes that reaching out to another to understand someone better, will definitely bring people closer together. At the same time, he cautioned against people with their own “agendas” who try to “accentuate” differences.
Everyone sharing a ‘common humanity’,was to him, something worthwhile to celebrate. It is hence imperative for us to think about how we can enlarge the existing areas we have in common “and not allow anyone who wants to accentuate differences to succeed in dividing us,” said DPM Teo.