S'pore must manage fault lines
NEW differences in attitudes towards issues such as sexual orientation and the distribution of wealth are emerging, and managing them will be a critical challenge for Singapore, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.
If Singaporeans work together, such differences can be a source of strength that can benefit society.
But if not managed well, they could become new fault lines that can polarise Singapore society, he warned.
Speaking at the launch of a new non-profit organisation called Honour SG, which is aimed at promoting a culture of honour in Singapore, Mr Heng said it took Singapore decades of hard work to bridge racial and religious differences.
He noted that matters of race, religion and language "are deeply visceral, and require constant vigilance".
"But even as we forged deeper understanding of these issues, new differences are emerging - be it in attitudes towards sexual orientation, new migrants, social status or the distribution of wealth," he said.
"How we manage differences - to ensure that these do not become new fault lines which polarise our society - this will be our critical challenge in the coming years."
And while it is natural for Singaporeans to have diverse opinions, the challenge ahead is how to create a society that gives maximum space for people to develop different ideas.
"At some point, after we air our different perspectives, we have to bring everyone together to move forward in a fair and just way, in a way that protects the vulnerable, and that grows the opportunities and welfare of everyone," he said.
"This cannot be a matter of one side winning and the other side losing."
One suggestion Mr Heng had to avoid this problem was for people to advocate solutions, rather than to simply state a position.
This could turn divisions into a source of new ideas that could benefit the nation.
For issues on which differences cannot be easily bridged, Mr Heng hopes Singapore can build a culture where it will be normal to say: "I may not share your view but I want to understand it and I will try my utmost to honour it."
He also spoke about the need to honour the spirit of the pioneer generation, which the Government is doing through the Pioneer Generation Package.
Singapore should also maintain the tradition of a country which is known for keeping its promises, he said.
"This has brought us prosperity over the last 50 years as local and foreign investors took us at our word," he said.
THE STRAITS TIMES