It is also important for Singapore to build resilience within society and deal with the challenges — be they relate to terrorism, social or economic issues. This is the key reason for the need for community resilience, and inter-religious and inter-racial harmony for Singapore.

Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law, Mr K Shanmugam, said this at a dialogue session with more than 100 participants from the Sikh community on 2 September 2015. Organised by YSA, the Sixth Ministerial Dialogue was titled “The Future of Singapore”.

On the key international challenges, Mr Shanmugam stressed that relationships between the big countries — China, US and Japan — is a serious issue and should not be taken lightly. It has implications for us (Singapore) and the space that we have enjoyed so far.

Focusing on regional developments, Mr Shanmugam stated, “Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia — what is happening in those countries. At all times in our history, all these can impact on us because they are such close neighbours, we have such close economic relationships. And political economic changes or challenges that they face would have a serious impact on us, and that is a second major facet.”

Domestically, Mr Shanmugam said that, our demographic challenge; it is, I think, a very serious one. We just have five persons working now for every one person who is below 65 years. It used to be 17 to one in the early 1970s. But in 15 years, it is going to go down to two persons below 65 years for every one person above 65 years. So it is a very significant challenge. Ageing society — we are one of the fastest ageing societies in the world. What does it do to your economy? What does it do to your social policies, your availability of manpower for a whole variety of things, including medical care?”

The two-hour dialogue also focussed on discussions on Sikh representation in government, leadership succession, ASEAN economic cooperation and aspirations of young Singaporeans, among others.

Replying to a question from the floor on why the People’s Action Party did not field a Sikh candidate in this year’s elections, Mr Shanmugan said that the Indian community here should not expect to have a representative in Parliament for every “Indian race”. He remarked, “If we start getting into the different Indian races, Tamils, Malayalis and so on, we would have endless problems.”

However, he urged the Sikh community to suggest possible candidates. “You give us names. If there are people who can make it through the system, we will take them. But they will go through the same process that everybody else goes through. They will not be selected because they are Sikhs. They will be selected because they can represent all Singaporeans.”

Mr Shanmugam was also asked if Singapore was ready for a non-Chinese prime minister. He replied that while it is possible, what was more important was for the candidate to have the ability needed for the position. “If you were ask the Cabinet today, philosophically, would there be any objection to a non-Chinese becoming the prime minister, I think the answer would be no. There is no philosophical objection, starting with the Prime Minister himself.” He cautioned, though, that the candidate, however, cannot just appeal to just one particular group. “If, politically, you cannot appeal to the majority community, the party will be in trouble.”

The event also saw the launch of YSA’s 10th Anniversary Publication, “10 — First Decade”. The pictorial presentation represents YSA’s humble beginnings and its journey to becoming an important and integral part of the Sikh community and the youth sector in Singapore.

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