By Dr Ng Eng Hen

Speech by Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence, for the Vesakhi Mela 2008 at the Singapore Khalsa Association on Sunday, 20th April 2008, at 4pm
Your Excellency, Mr Sajjad Ashraf, High Commissioner of Pakistan

My parliamentary colleague, Mr Inderjit Singh, Member of Parliament, Ang Mo Kio GRC
Mr Balbeer Singh Mangat, President, Singapore Khalsa Association
Mr Manminder Singh, Chairman, Organising Committee

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. It is my pleasure to be here to share in the Sikh community’s Vesakhi celebrations, which commemorate the 309th anniversary of the birth of the Khalsa. I am heartened to note that the Sikh Singaporean community has come together as one family to organise the annual Vesakhi celebrations with the traditional Mela for the past 45 years.

2. Earlier in the day, as part of the celebrations, there were cultural events, tele-matches and even a sports carnival. What is notable is that the participants were not only members of the Sikh community but also youths from different communities and social backgrounds. In fact, this is the fourth year that the Singapore Khalsa Association (SKA) is working with the Central Singapore Community Development Council to bring Vesakhi Mela to the non-Sikh community.

3. Consistent and meaningful interaction among the different ethnic groups is crucial. Without it, racial harmony is unlikely to exist. Without racial harmony, we will not be enjoying the peace and economic prosperity that we have now. Racial harmony is one of the basic foundations of Singapore’s success. We can have the most talented and hardworking people. But if our people are not at peace with each other, we will not be able to focus our talents on what will benefit us, our families, and our country. We will also not be able to attract the investments that play a large part in our survival and success.

4. In schools, students of different races are encouraged to work and play together. Schools provide opportunities for interaction through means such as Co-Curricular Activities, Community Involvement Programmes, camps and overseas trips. And our schools’ efforts are complemented by efforts of the various community groups so that friendships and understanding among the different races can be deepened and reinforced.

5. I am glad to note that community-based organisations such as the SKA are providing avenues for youths from the different ethnic groups to mingle and bond. The ties that are forged among our youths will contribute to the continual strengthening of our social fabric.

6. I am also heartened that the Sikh community has made a special effort to invite and involve senior citizens in today’s event. In all our celebrations, we should indeed not forget our seniors who have contributed much to Singapore’s success. What we have today is due in no small way to their selfless giving. I commend the SKA for using today’s joyous platform to remind our youth of the importance of family values and racial harmony by showing respect to their elders and respecting the culture and values of other communities.

7. I extend my heartiest congratulations to the Sikh community as you celebrate Vesakhi. It has been my pleasure to share in the 2008 Vesakhi Mela celebrations, and to experience the rhythms, vitality, energy, and vibrancy of this joyous occasion. It leaves me now to wish you all an enjoyable and memorable day at Vesakhi Mela 2008.

8. Thank you.