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Speech by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister & Minister for Finance & Minister for Manpower At The Malay Activity Executive Committees' (MAECs) 35th Anniversary Celebrations Dinner

07 Jul 2012

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts and Advisor to MESRA

Mr Salleh Bin Masjor, Acting Chairman, MESRA

Mr Chan Boon Fui, Deputy Chief Executive, People’s Association

Distinguished Guests

All members of our MAECs

1. It is my pleasure to be here today to attend this significant dinner to commemorate the 35th Anniversary Celebrations of the Malay Activity Executive Committees (MAECs).

2. It is wonderful that so many of us are here tonight, especially from all our MAECs and from many other grassroots organisations as well.

MAECs' Contributions to Community

3. There are now 97 MAECs all over the island. They are active, on their own as well as by working closely with other GROs to encourage the Malay community to participate in various community programmes and activities, interest groups, and national affairs.

4. But beyond offering attractive and exciting activities to the Malay community, our MAECs have also been very active in bridging our communities and creating something that we all share in common. MAECs have helped our Malay communities to know and engage in each other's cultures - our Malay community with their fellow Singaporeans and vice versa. They have done this by working hand-in-hand with IAECs, YECs and other GROs.

5. The active involvement of MAECs in many grassroots activities has thereby been a big positive, both for the Malay community and our country.

6. MAECs can definitely take pride in its achievements. Through their engagement and outreach efforts, MAECs and other GROs to the Malay community have successfully engaged one in three Malay residents, reaching out to about 183,000 Malays as at March this year. I am confident that MAECs and other GROs will continue to work hard to achieve the PA's Community Vision of engaging one in two of our Malay residents by 2015.

7. Hence, I would like to congratulate all 38 MAECs which have consistently achieved a 4-star grading in the PA Awards for the last six consecutive years for their outreach efforts and achievements. They are here tonight to receive the Anugerah Gemilang awards for their excellent performance.

8. For example, Cheng San, Ci Yuan and Anchorvale CC MAECs, together with the other MAECs within Ang Mo Kio GRC-Sengkang West SMC and other GROs, have been successfully organising family carnivals biennially since 2008.

9. Similarly, Sembawang and Fuchun CC MAECs, in collaboration with the other MAECs within Sembawang GRC and other GROs, have brought significant benefits to the residents in their Health Champions Project. They have trained Health Champions to recruit and mentor friends, relatives and residents on health matters.

Partnership in education outreach

10. Besides grassroots activities, the MAECs have also embarked on educational programmes in collaboration with Yayasan Mendaki. In fact, the MAECs form an integral part of Mendaki's education outreach.

11. One such programme is the Success in PSLE Mathematics seminar series. As the name implies, it is a programme that targets students sitting for the PSLE with an emphasis on Mathematics. To date, the MAECs have worked with Mendaki to organise the seminar series at six CCs island-wide. This has allowed Mendaki to reach out to more than 700 students for the first session of the seminar series this year alone.

12. MAEC's endeavours in education programmes certainly do not end there. They are also a strong supporter of the Community Leaders' Forum (CLF) and play a significant  part in Maju Minda Matematika (Tiga M), Core Parenting Skills Workshop Series and Educational Assistance through the Education Trust Fund Vouchers. The Core parenting skills workshop series has benefitted more than 600 participants in the first half of this year alone.

Challenges and Opportunities for our MAECs

13. Like any other community organisation in Singapore, our MAECs face new challenges and opportunities.

14. Cultural activities remain a wonderful glue within the community. But it is necessary to to extend the MAECs' reach beyond cultural activities. Let me highlight two related priorities - and I know several MAECs are already focusing on them.

15. First, we should use our strengths and advantages as MAECs to reach out to families in need, hold their hands and help them build a better future. Members of MAECs usually have strong local knowledge and connections. They can play the critical role of social facilitators on the ground – identifying and helping residents resolve personal and family issues, and guiding them to the appropriate national and community resources.

16. MAEs could thus explore the possibility of working with mosques and other Malay/Muslim Organisations under the ambit of CLF to organise programmes to help disadvantaged families in their surroundings. They should also develop a close network with other non-ethnic based community partners so that we make the most of all our resources on the ground – social workers, counselors, volunteer mentors and community activists. We can do more to help families, through both formal and informal networks on the ground. Informal networks of grassroots volunteers and social professionals on the ground really make a difference in reaching out and helping those in need.

17. The Government is also working to help community partners, the CDCs and other local organizations network better, share information and work as a team to help families who are going through rough times. Each organization or groups has its own strengths. Some have expertise and resources to help the elderly; some are able to motivate individuals who have been displaced from work and feel discouraged from starting again; some are focused on helping ex-offenders turn their lives around; others are dedicated to helping the kids, and giving them confidence early in life.  We have to work as a team to take families to better times.

18. The second challenge, similar to many other organizations, is for our MAECs to build leaders of tomorrow. One immediate task is to attract more Malay youth into MAECs and other GROs.  For this, we must create space for them to pursue their interests and initiatives. We have to put effort into spotting potential youth leaders, bringing them in and progressively grooming them to take on more responsibilities in the community.

19. We can tap on the increasing number of young and enthusiastic Malay PMETs who are keen to participate in community work. The pool is now much larger than it was a decade ago, as the community has progressed significantly in education.

20. Indeed, this second challenge of attracting volunteers and building leaders is related to the first challenge I mentioned, of actively reaching out and helping families in need. I believe there are many potential volunteers who will come forward if they know they can do something meaningful to help children or the elderly, and help build strength in the community. Let's attract and retain these enthusiastic young people, give them room and give them say, and build up their abilities as leaders, whether in the MAECs or other areas.

21. Our MAECs will I am sure regard these not just as challenges but as opportunities - opportunities to deepen their engagement with our evolving Malay community, and to work with our other GROs, with community partners and with the Government, to develop a more inclusive society.

22. Looking at the many dedicated MAEC volunteers we have gives us confidence; looking at the contributions that MAECs and MESRA have made in our neighbourhoods and collectively to the nation, gives us all conf idence. Let us therefore build on what we have achieved, and build a stronger society for the future.

23. Let me wish you a wonderful evening of joyful 35th Anniversary celebrations!