Friday, March 11, 2011

The Straits Times : Pick favourite spot for heritage trail

The Straits Times
By Jeremy Au Yong
11th March 2011

Residents can soon nominate key areas of communities to highlight their unique identities

RESIDENTS will soon be able to nominate their favourite old local hawker stall or mamak shop in their neighbourhood as a heritage site, in a move to create more heritage trails to highlight the unique identities of communities across Singapore.

Mr Lui Tuck Yew, the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, said yesterday that the Government will work with residents, schools and grassroots leaders to 'identify important areas in their communities, mark them as heritage sites, and incorporate them into new heritage trails'.

'These could include places of worship, cultural institutions, famous businesses and even hawker stalls,' he added.

The step is being taken as part of a multi-pronged approach to foster a sense of belonging among Singaporeans.

Mr Lui announced this effort in his reply to Madam Ho Geok Choo (West Coast GRC) and Nominated MP Calvin Cheng, who both voiced concerns over how a recent influx of foreigners might impact Singapore's national identity.

He also stressed that the increased presence of foreigners had not shaken Singapore's identity.

'On the contrary, I believe they have enriched it. We must remember that we are a city built by immigrants from distant lands. As the Chinese saying goes: Hai na bai chuan, you rong nai da - an ocean is great because it accepts all rivers flowing into it.

'Likewise, we should, as we have in the past, welcome those who want to contribute, weather ups and downs together, and weave their unique cultures into our social fabric.'

He added, however, that Singapore must encourage its people to think and talk about what made them Singaporean.

He highlighted many of his ministry's initiatives aimed at doing just that. At the heart of these efforts was getting ordinary Singaporeans involved in fostering this national identity.

Just as it would work with the ground to identify heritage sites in the neighbourhoods, his ministry also wanted to equip communities with skills and funding to develop their own heritage activities.

The Singapore Memory Project, started last year to capture national memories, similarly wanted personal stories from the people. So far, it has received contributions from more than 40 community and institutional partners.

This year's Singapore Arts Festival will also have an eye on national identity. It's theme is I Want To Remember, and will feature an interactive People's Exhibition at six venues islandwide. It will piece together videos, photographs and other mementoes, contributed by people, of old performing places such as the National Theatre and Great World.

Another festival - the Singapore Heritage Festival - will, for the first time, bring its opening and closing events into the heartland. The festival uses performances and exhibitions to raise awareness of Singapore's rich heritage.

But Mr Lui's speech was not all about preservation. One section was devoted to an aspect of Singapore's national identity he hoped to change: lack of graciousness.

While pointing out some government campaigns, he noted that what was more crucial was for every Singaporean to try and make kindness part of their DNA.

'While we have made progress over the years and particularly so during the occasions when the spotlight is on Singapore, we can do more to bring kindness and graciousness into our daily lives,' he said.

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