Blog To Express

A blogosphere learning experience to express with blog

My Photo
Location: Singapore, Singapore

A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Jul 21, 2010

Colour of Harmony (1)

Racial Harmony Day is celebrated on 21 July, 2010 in Singapore. The event is to commemorate the 1964 Race Riots, which took place on 21 July 1964.

This year, Uncle Dick Yip’s posted his latest "Wise Old Owl" blog topic “Racial Riots or Racial Harmony…Your Choice!”

Some people may wonder why the need to highlight about racial riots on a sensitive issues in a multi-racial Singapore. Would it be better to just pretend that there was such a thing which happened? Can people not mention about life and death when attending a funeral wake or burial as an associated link of thoughts on this subject?

While the phenomenon in every life’s death (as well as birth) is unpredictable and beyond a person’s control, the malice of hatefulness, hostility and vindictiveness for the human destruction of one man or a group of men for the conscious acts of the society. This is an universal human affairs and events, not specifically for Singapore.

Thus “Racial Riots or Racial Harmony…Your Choice”.

The choice to have peace and prosperity for racial harmony, or war, fighting and poverty for racial unrest and disharmony. The lessons are taught through history and until today in the world.

What’s the choice for the people and for the nation?

First Racial Harmony Day

The first Racial Harmony Day was celebrated on 21 July 1997. As part of the National Education Programme, it is celebrated yearly on the anniversary of the communal riots of 21 July 1964.

In the year of the launch, Racial Harmony Day was celebrated only in schools but three years later, in July 2000, all nine Community Development Councils (CDCs) joined in the observations. Multiracial festivals and fairs with festivities extended to the end of July.

Racial Harmony Day also represents a day for schools to reflect on, and celebrate Singapore's success as a racially harmonious nation and society built on a rich diversity of culture and heritage. Students are encouraged to be dressed in their traditional costumes such as the Cheongsam and the Baju Kurung. Traditional delicacies and sweet meats are also featured in the celebrations. Traditional games such as the Top and Zero Point are played in schools, where inter-class competitions are sometimes organised.

Schools are also encouraged to recite a declaration on religious harmony during the celebrations.

Declaration on Religious Harmony
We, the people in Singapore, declare that religious harmony is vital for peace, progress and prosperity in our multi-racial and multi-religious Nation.
We resolve to strengthen religious harmony through mutual tolerance, confidence, respect, and understanding.
We shall always
Recognise the secular nature of our State,
Promote cohesion within our society,
Respect each other's freedom of religion,
Grow our common space while respecting our diversity,
Foster inter-religious communications, and thereby ensure that religion will not be abused to create conflict and disharmony in Singapore.

Racial Harmony Day reminds our pupils that racial or religious provocation costs us dearly and that race relations are potential fault-lines in Singaporean society. It is a day for schools to ponder, appreciate and celebrate our success as a nation. We uniquely stand together as a society built on a wealth of input and wisdom from different cultures and heritages. There was a time when not all was harmonious.

The racial riots on 21 July 1964 went down in Singapore’s history as a cautionary tale of the fragility of race relations in Singapore. A holy day that was meant to celebrate Prophet Mohamad’s birthday ended on a grim note for Singaporeans when the riots left 461 injured, and 22 dead. It looked like the social fabric in Singapore was going to be torn apart without hope of being mended. The outbreak of the riots revealed that planning, clever use of the media and a well-colluded provocation caused the darkest suspicions and distrust among Singaporeans. On 16 August 1964, Racial Harmony Week was inaugrated to respond to the mayhem and put on notice that every race and religion mattered to the government and social inequities were to be addressed.

The common spaces where racial harmony can be nurtured and flourish are in National events such as National Day and Racial Harmony Day. The common spaces that Singaporeans share is one important building block for racial harmony. Common spaces, as the term implies, simply refers to avenues and platforms that we have to enhance, cultivate and deepen our understanding and relations with fellow Singaporeans of different races.

In Singapore, the Racial Harmony Website is found "here" .

The theme for this year's Racial Harmony Day is “Embracing Diversity, Building Community”. It reminds us of the different races, cultures and languages in Singapore, especially with the transformation of Singaporean society over the years. The Racial Harmony Day celebrations are a reminder that promoting social cohesion and racial harmony requires constant effort from our educators, students and stakeholders, such as parents.

This is the double page spread of the story and interview which appears on Page 10 and 11 of MIX Magazine July 2010 issue. Titled " Different Races, Same Kampong ". It was written by Justin Zhuang the Deputy Editor of the same Magazine.

Find out more about the 1964 Racial Riots directly from Unk Dicko's first person account based on what he had meticulously recorded in his diary of July, Aug and Sept a 16 yr old schoolboy.

As mentioned by Unk Dicko:

"In the next few days, I shall expand on the rioting and the curfews and what life was like as seen from the eyes of a 16 year old schoolboy ( Unk Dicko's age then ) helped in this modern time and age by his precious personal diaries”. Please read on his blog.

Unfortunately, I don’t have diaries from Unk Dicko for me as a “memory aid” to remember about the 1964 racial riots when I was younger than the Wise Old Owl.

As a young urchin of Bukit Ho Swee at that time, I was still interested in catching spiders. Perhaps I was immature and still childish. I enjoyed showing my kampung buddies to learn the ropes to catch spiders in my favorite spots at the bushes in the Nathan Road area to spend hours after school to share this to feed the spiders, train them, play them. As a matter of principle, the weaker spiders are left in their bushes to survive. Not to kill them.

When older, I realised that spiders for fighting competition is as cruel as bull-fighting. After reading Ernest Hemingway's book "Death in the Afternoon", I stopped harming lives of spiders for fun as a childhood hobby since then. Toy spiders made of rubber or plastic material to frighten some friends is ok.

I could only remember my neighbours spreading in rumours (pre-Internet days) and the shown on their faces appearance tension, fear and anxiety, people gathered in small groups in the kampung to gossip all day and night. I only heard bits and pieces whispered from the neighbours, "heard from the black bird in the night" which I know little to understand the situation.

For the first time, I learnt the meaning of "curfew" and the phrase "Don't spread rumours. Rumours are dangerous". That slogan was rampant and repeatedly broadcasted on Rediffusion and Radio Singapura.

Next: Colour of Harmony (2) .



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home