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Speech By Mr Raymond Lim, Minister, Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister For Finance And Foreign Affairs At Vesakhi Mela 2006 on Sunday, 16 April 2006 At 4 pm, At Singapore Khalsa Association

17 Apr 2006

Parliamentary Colleague, Mr Davinder Singh,

Mr Mohinder Singh, Chairman Organising Committee,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

1. I am delighted to join you in the Sikh community's Vesakhi celebrations to commemorate the 307th anniversary of the birth of the Khalsa. I see many happy and enthusiastic faces here this afternoon. I am told that more than 5,000 will be at today's Mela. These comprise of Sikhs as well as a diversity of Singaporeans from the larger community - and that's wonderful! You have come together, as one big family, to commemorate this annual Vesakhi celebrations with the traditional Mela here in the Singapore Khalsa Association's premises.

2. The Mela is an event that celebrates the rich Sikh heritage and cultural traditions that first originated in Punjab. As we celebrate the Mela here, we reflect and appreciate the role of the forefathers and early pioneers in passing on deep-rooted values and cultural traditions to this generation. The Sikh pioneers raised funds to build places of worship and for recreation such as the Singapore Khalsa Association. These serve as focal points for the community to meet and gather together to celebrate significant cultural and religious events.

3. The Singapore Khalsa Association has played a central role in cultivating an appreciation and celebration of the Sikh culture and its traditions through various educational and cultural activities here, as well as immersion programmes recently inaugurated for Sikh Singaporeans at the Punjabi University in Punjab. The Association's premises have also evolved into a central meeting place where Sikh Singaporean youth can meet and bring in their friends from the larger Singaporean community to participate in sports, recreational, cultural and educational activities. It is highly commendable that the Sikh community has strived to balance the challenges of passing on the rich Sikh heritage and cultural traditions to Sikh children while emphasizing the need to be engaged as active citizens bonded with the larger Singaporean community.

4. I am therefore very heartened to see that the Sikh community has been consistently using "Forging our Multi-Racial Bonding" as its theme to celebrate this special occasion in recent years. The emphasis on bonding is reflected in today's events in a number of significant ways. First, the Sikh community has taken the initiative to jointly organise the Mela in collaboration with TRUST Central of the Central Singapore Community Development Council (CDC). Secondly, the involvement of young Singaporean and non-Singaporean from all races and social backgrounds in today's cultural events, tele-matches and sports carnival, serves to build bonds amongst our youth. This will be crucial in strengthening the social fabric of our young nation. Thirdly, the Sikh community has prepared a heritage corner with exhibits which help non-Sikhs learn the Punjabi/Sikh heritage and culture. And finally, it is noteworthy that the community has made a special effort to raise funds for children challenged by Down's syndrome.

5. Involving other Singaporeans not only shares the joy of the celebrations but also promotes a deeper appreciation of the rich heritage of the Sikh community. This adds to the national effort to enhance trust and understanding between Singapore's various ethnic communities, as well as with people of other nationalities living and working in Singapore.

6. I commend the Singapore Khalsa Association for initiating the many activities to promote community harmony. I congratulate the Sikh community as you celebrate Vesakhi on the auspicious occasion of the 307th anniversary of the birth of the Khalsa. It is my pleasure to share in the 2006 Vesakhi Mela celebrations and to experience the rhythms, the vitality, the energy and the vibrance of this joyous celebration of Punjabi / Sikh culture and heritage. I wish you all a most enjoyable and memorable day at Vesakhi Mela 2006.

7. Thank you.