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Speech By Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister For Finance, At Vesak Celebrations & Cultural Show, 15 May 2008, 7.30pm, Serangoon Road

15 May 2008

Mr Lee Bock Guan,
President, Singapore Buddhist Lodge,

Mr Rajakumar Chandra,
Chairman, Little India Shopkeepers & Heritage Association,

Mr S Rajendran,
Chairman, Hindu Endowments Board,

Mr Choo Hong San,
Secretary, Taoist Federation Singapore,

Mr S Manogaran,
CEO, Singapore Indian Development Association,

Mr Mohd Saleem,
Secretary of Jamiyah Singapore,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

1. Good evening to all of you. I am very happy to join you on this occasion to mark the start of the week-long celebrations for Vesak.

2. Vesak is a very important day for the Buddhists .On Vesak Day, Buddhists are reminded to live in harmony with people of other faiths, and to respect the beliefs of others. Celebrating Vesak also means making special efforts to bring happiness to the less fortunate like the aged, the handicapped and the sick. In Singapore, the Buddhist community has generously distributed food or gifts to the needy as part of its yearly Vesak celebrations.

3. However, Little India's Vesak Celebrations reach out to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. It is an excellent opportunity for people from different faiths to come together and share in the values behind Vesak Day, which indeed we all hold dear. I am pleased to see the continued support of the Taoist Federation (Singapore), Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple, Hindu Endowments Board and Jamiyah Singapore for the Singapore Buddhist Lodge and Little India Shopkeepers & Heritage Association (LISHA), who have put much effort into organising these annual festivities within Little India. I understand too that during the celebrations all Hindu temples send offerings to the Buddha in honour of his universal teachings.

4. I must congratulate the organisers for their efforts to meet the needs of the less fortunate in our society. Last year, the organisers raised $635,000 for the S Rajaratnam Education Trust Fund and $100,000 for SINDA in support of bursary awards which benefit underprivileged students of various religions. Little India's Vesak Celebrations also contribute towards the President's Challenge and other noble causes.

5. Over the years, the Buddhist community has been at the forefront in addressing the needs of the less fortunate in our society. They have provided assistance to many members of our society, regardless of their race or religion. This has led to the setting up of the Vesak Education Fund. I understand that more than $1 million has been raised by Little India Shopkeepers & Heritage Association (LISHA) and the Buddhist community to aid needy students identified by the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA). Allow me to thank all the donors for their support and dedication.

6. I also understand that a Blood Drive is also held each year during Vesak. It is a fitting occasion since the festival celebrates universal virtues of compassion and kindness. Many individuals from all walks of life have come forward to participate in the Blood Drive, and donate a priceless gift to their fellow Singaporeans. On behalf of all in the community, I would like to offer heartfelt thanks and good wishes to everyone who has and will be participating in this year's Vesak Blood Drive.

7. I hope that the spirit of openness and inter-faith cooperation demonstrated by everyone involved in this event will continue to flourish in the years to come.

8. To all the Buddhists here this evening, a happy and healthy Vesak Day.

9. I wish you all an enjoyable evening.