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Speech by Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister of State for Finance and Transport, at The Pongal 2005 Celebrations, 11 January 2005

12 Jan 2005

Mr Param, Chairman, LISHA
Dr Uma Rajan, Advisor, LISHA
Mr S Gohulabalan, Chairman, Pongal 2005 Organising Committee
Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Evening

Thank you very much for inviting me to join you this evening for the Pongal 2005 Celebrations in Little India.

2 Throughout history, mankind across all cultures around the world always celebrates bountiful harvests with thanksgiving ceremonies. It may be celebrated differently in different cultures but the spirit of thanksgiving is undoubtedly common. It is to appreciate all those who have contributed to the successful harvest. It is also timely to stress the importance of balancing work and play through such family- and community-centred celebrations.

3 In South India, I understand, the Pongal or Rice Harvest Festival is celebrated by many. It is a time that entire villages gather for a community feast to share their crops. Singapore may be far away and we may not have any meaningful agriculture to speak of, but sharing in this celebration is a good way to educate our young on the value of hard work as exemplified by the farmers' toil. It is also a good reminder of the importance of agrarian work and to appreciate those who have ploughed the fields for us in order that we can get fed. This celebration will also enhance cross-culture understanding and add vibrancy to Little India, be it for the local community or tourists.

4 On this note, I am happy to acknowledge this and the other efforts by LISHA in organizing various activities to enhance the cultural and economic vibrancy of Little India. Let me mention a few of the outstanding achievements:

(a) the extension of the Deepavali Fair to Dunlop Street last year which saw strong support by locals and tourists alike,
(b) the Little India Utsav, a street parade of Indian heritage and culture at Race Course Road and
(c) LISHA's participation in the Singapore Arts Festival which included a special 24-hour arts programme at Farrer Park.

5 I am confident that LISHA, with its strong membership of 250, will continue to play a significant role in broadening the appreciation of culture and heritage at Little India.

6 This year, LISHA has chosen to focus on the role of women in business development in Little India. I have been informed that women, as daughters, wives and even grand-daughters have been revamping and evolving their businesses in response to changing customer needs, that is, of the younger generations and tourists. This is very heart-warming and I would certainly expect to see even greater achievements in the future.

7 Once again, thank you for inviting me to this celebration. Allow me to end by wishing LISHA all the very best for the new year and to urge LISHA to continue working closely with the different Government agencies such as the Singapore Tourism Board to enhance Singapore's position as an exciting tourist destination. I wish you all an enjoyable evening.