DPM Heng Swee Keat at Hindi Centres Day 2023

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 23 July 2023

Remarks by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at Hindi Centres Day 2023 on 23 July 2023.

Mr Mahendra Prasad Rai, President of the Hindi Society Singapore
Ms Anjali Gandhi, Principal of the Hindi Society Singapore
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls 

Good afternoon. I’m delighted to join you at today’s Hindi Centres Day to celebrate our students, teachers and volunteers. After hearing what President Mahendra and Principal Anjali explained about the huge efforts our volunteer teachers had made to conduct classes despite COVID, and the fact that we are finally having a physical gathering after four years, this is a very special celebration. So congratulations and thank you very much to all our teachers for your hard work. And to our students who have achieved academic excellence in the Hindi language – well done and keep up the good work!

The study of the mother tongue language is important in connecting us to our values, culture and heritage. Language is the key medium for values to be passed on from one generation to the next. This was probably what motivated Mr Tiwari, whom I worked closely with over the years and have huge respect for, to approach Dr Tony Tan years ago to suggest the teaching of the Hindi language in schools.

Here in Singapore, our mother tongue languages go hand-in-hand with the use of English as a common medium to share insights from our respective cultures, and learn about other cultures. By cross-sharing and cross-learning, we open our minds to new things, and build empathy for those who are different from us. This is the foundation of Singapore’s harmonious multiracial and multicultural society. As President Mahendra said earlier, we celebrate different festivals in Singapore, such as Holi, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Hari Raya or others.

Our mother tongues play an important role of connecting us to our cultures and heritage, while the use of the English language as a common language enables us to deepen understanding with other communities, strengthen social cohesion and connect with the world.This requires deliberate effort. In many societies, communities defined by language or nationality are often tight-knit and supportive, but can be insular and exclusive. In fact, very often, differences in language, religion or culture can become a source of conflict within a society. Here in Singapore, we must make diversity our source of strength. This requires all communities in Singapore to make the effort to build ties and foster interactions with one another. In a world that is becoming more fragmented and more contested, a child growing up in Singapore – a multiracial, multi-religious, and multi-cultural environment – should have an advantage if they learn different languages well, open their minds to the different cultures around us, and grow up interacting with people from different races. They will develop the strength and ability to connect with people from all over the world.The cultural and linguistic literacy that comes from growing up in multi-racial, multi-religious, and multicultural Singapore, will enable us to plug and play in different parts of the world. In that way, Singapore can play a role in building a more harmonious and united world, to tackle the many common challenges that every country in the world is facing. So let us build on this tremendous potential to become a real source of strength for Singapore and for the world.

In Singapore, our Indian community itself is diverse and lively, comprising different subgroups similar to the Chinese and Malay communities. So I am very glad to hear that the Hindi Society, like other community organisations in Singapore, makes the effort to build ties and foster interactions beyond your own circles. Earlier, President Mahendra mentioned working together with People’s Association, SINDA, and the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association (LISHA) to strengthen intra- and inter-community understanding. This is how we can continue to sustain peace and harmony, even as we celebrate our diverse backgrounds, languages and cultures. 

So as we gather today to celebrate Hindi language achievements, let us always situate our mission and work within Singapore’s multicultural society. Share about your language, heritage and culture with other communities, and have the same curiosity to explore and understand theirs as well. Participate actively in community events to interact with other communities, and make friends from different cultures and races. Just last weekend, I was at the Narpani Pearavai Community Carnival. I met many interesting Indian community groups like the Singapore Malayalee Association, Singapore Telugu Samajam, and the Kannada Sangha. I hope you will continue to strengthen bridges to these groups to enrich your collective cultural heritage, as well as build bridges with all other communities. And finally, contribute to strengthening social cohesion and trust within our Singapore society, be it through community work, volunteering or other means. 

In conclusion, let us build on our diversity and turn it into a great source of strength for one other, for Singapore, and for the world. Thank you very much.