Opening Remarks by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong at the Deepavali Light-Up Ceremony on 30 September 2023.
Chairman of the Little India Shopkeepers & Heritage Association (LISHA), Mr Siva
Excellencies and Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good evening, and Vanakkam,
Let me also extend a warm welcome to one and all, from the heart of Little India, as we gather today for this Deepavali light-up, and I wish everyone a happy Deepavali in advance.
Deepavali symbolises the triumph of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil. In fact, the values and principles that Hindus affirm when you commemorate Deepavali – values like discipline, humility, tolerance just to name a few – are also shared by other religions and communities in Singapore.
So, Deepavali in Singapore is an occasion for neighbours, residents and friends of all races and religions to come together. During this period, Little India sees many visitors from all over Singapore, to enjoy the festivities and celebrations. Many of us are also invited to the homes of our Indian friends to share the joyous atmosphere. This is the Singapore way – where we embrace our diversity, where we appreciate, respect and value one another’s cultures and traditions, and where we celebrate together as one united people.
This year’s Deepavali celebrations will be especially festive. I think the last three years were difficult years with COVID and all the different restrictions. We want to put all of these behind us. I am sure you have forgotten about all the COVID restrictions, it was like a bad dream. But this year, the celebrations will be especially festive. Visitors can look forward to several bustling bazaars and events. There is the new food village at Clive Street that Mr Siva said just now. There is the usual Deepavali Festival Village in Campbell Lane which offers traditional delicacies, as well as opportunities for visitors to know more about the history and heritage of Little India.
So tonight, I want to applaud and recognise the efforts of everyone in LISHA for your continued efforts all these years to add charm and energy to Little India, and also to all the stakeholders in Little India who have supported these activities and events. Thank you very much for all your hard work and support! Through your collective efforts – LISHA, the shop owners, the shopkeepers, and all the different stakeholders – through your collective efforts, you have made Little India not just an iconic district for Singapore, you have also made it one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world! So, congratulations and well done. This is not from me, but these are from people who go around the world, visiting places, and they say Little India is one of the top coolest neighbourhoods, not in Singapore, but in the world. That is quite an achievement. So well done!
Of course, our Deepavali celebrations in Singapore extend beyond Little India. In the coming weeks, there will be activities and events across all our communities and housing estates in Singapore too. I am also glad to hear just now what Mr Siva said, that LISHA is also collaborating with SMRT for public trains and buses to be decorated with Deepavali designs from mid-October onwards. So everywhere you go in Singapore you can feel the Deepavali atmosphere, and we will be able to share the beauty of the celebrations with all Singaporeans.
Of course, Deepavali is not just a time for merrymaking. It is also a time for all of us to lend a helping hand to those around us, and to bring light into their lives.
So I am glad that LISHA has partnered the Hindu Endowment Board and its supporting temples to raise funds for the President’s Challenge. LISHA has also collaborated with SINDA through Project Give to raise funds for the needy and to engage our isolated seniors. All of these efforts have helped to make Deepavali in Singapore, not just a time of celebrations, but a time of giving and a festival of joy for the wider community. So thank you once again to all of you for your efforts and generosity.
Finally, I should extend my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to everyone who has worked tirelessly to organise this wonderful Deepavali Light-Up celebration. And as you heard just now, and you can see from the boards, so many people and organisations are involved. This is truly an amazing teamwork, involving so many different parties. From the government side, you have got the STB, you have got the Indian Heritage Centre, you got HEB, you got the community groups like SINDA, you got MediaCorp as our national broadcaster working with the organisers, LISHA, and then of course you have got many different sponsors who made this event possible. You have got performers and artisans, and of course the many volunteers who have dedicated their time to put together this event. All of you play a part in making this very special, so thank you all for bringing the spirit of Deepavali to life right here in Little India Singapore. Thank you very much!
The Deepavali light up at Little India is a tradition that has gone on for 35 years – started in 1988 – so it is 35 years now. It is a tradition that reflects our multi-racial diversity and our distinctive Singaporean identity. It is a precious tradition to uphold, so let us keep this going, not just for the next 35 years, but for the next generation, and for the next 100 years and beyond. Let us continue to keep faith with each other and strengthen our solidarity as one united people.
And on that note, I would like to wish all of you once again, a very happy Deepavali. Annaivarukkum Deepavali Vaalthukkal! Nandri!
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